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two million dollars was stolen or were stolen?

8 replies    
Was ist richtig:
- two million dollars was stolen
- two million dollars were stolen

Ich würde sagen "were stolen", ich habe aber in einem Buch gelesen "was stolen"
(Lost Light von Michael Connelly)
Oder geht beides?
AuthorLeseratte12 May 06, 10:46
two million was stolen

two million dollars were stolen

would be my take, but I can imagine Connelly was thinking of the "two million" and not "dollars" and therefore used was.
#1AuthorSelkie12 May 06, 11:00
@ Selkie: Thanks, that would have been my guess, too. I had this also confirmed by two native speakers. Maybe the "was" is colloquial.
#2AuthorLeseratte12 May 06, 11:03
@ TRS: genau, amount ist singular und das Verb bezieht sich auf amount und nicht auf dollars.

Aber es gibt ja so seltsame Konstellationen wie:
The United States is ...
The police are ...

deshalb war ich mir bei den Dollars nicht mehr ganz sicher!
#4AuthorLeseratte12 May 06, 11:11
Connelly writes quite good dialogue (with the exception of his latest novel, a great disappointment). Was this said by a character? I would think we would often say "was," though be more careful in writing and take "were".

TRS explaination is good: the focus is on the immensity of the sum with was.
#5AuthorSelkie12 May 06, 11:12
@ Selkie: es war kein Diaglog. Das Buch ist in Ich-Erzählweise geschrieben und der Detective erzählt von den vorangegangenen Ereignissen. In Dialogen wird ja öfter Umgangssprache verwendet, einer meiner Lieblingssätze: we didn't do nothing, we was home watchin' TV ;-))
#6AuthorLeseratte12 May 06, 11:19
Sorry, on this I'm afraid I have to disagree with Selkie and TRS, and any other expats who may have been thinking of German usage.

In English, amounts of money, time, or distance are considered in mass and treated as singular. Using the word 'dollars' doesn't change anything.

Two million is a lot of money.
Two million dollars was stolen.
$400 billion is the projected amount of the US federal budget deficit.

Only individual physical objects such as coins or bills take the plural:

Two dollar bills were lying on the sidewalk.
Four quarters make a dollar.

So the author and his editors were right. If you said 'Two million dollars were stolen,' it would mean two million one-dollar bills or coins -- but no one would say that.

If this comes as a surprise to you, you may want to review other tricky points of subject-verb agreement. There are many helpful exercises online, e.g.,

Plural unit words of distance, money, and time take a singular verb.
• 300 miles is a long [way] to go on a bicycle. (distance)
• Two hundred dollars seems a lot to spend on a dress. (money)
• Fifteen years is a long time to spend in jail. (time)

Nouns expressing time, distance, weight, and measurement are singular when they refer to a unit and plural when they refer to separate items.
Example: Fifty yards is a short distance.
Example: Ten years have passed since I finished college.

This topic should also be covered in any grammar book, and there are many previous discussions in the archive. Often the rules in English are simply different from German.
#7Authorhm -- us12 May 06, 15:55

Hmm. Die zeitform stört mich noch.... wenn etwas gestohlen wurde, gibts 2 Möglichkeiten... es ist aktuell wieder da oder immer noch gestohlen.

Also: das auto ist gestohlen oder das auto wurde gestohlen. Wird hier nochmal unterschieden? (es gibt doch das past-present-continous ... was auf ersteren Fall zuträfe und das past perfect würde dann den 2. Fall adressieren)

#8Authorsnoopy11 Jan 08, 09:51

Wenn, dann umgekehrt :-)
#9Authoreldit11 Jan 08, 09:53
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