Count toward our grades or our grade?


I have an assignment that is 30 percent of my grade. Would my teacher say

This task counts toward 30 percent of you guys' grades or you guys' grade?

And why?

[EDIT includes minor corrections]


Posted 2016-08-21T14:28:30.817

Reputation: 631

Your teacher might say that, but really he probably shouldn't. If A counts toward[s] B (where A and B are "quantifiable, countable, summable" things), that almost always presupposes A only contributes *part* of the final B total (other elements *also* "count towards" B). He should probably say something more like *This task [ac]counts for [up to] 30% of your grades*. But there's always going to be vagueness / ambiguity, whether you include *up to* or not. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-21T14:45:23.880


Possible duplicate of Have a seat, guys (have seats?)

– Alan Carmack – 2016-08-21T15:05:41.267

1In this case, I think grade sounds better, because each student has only one grade. – Alan Carmack – 2016-08-21T15:07:08.263

2@Alan Carmack: I disagree. Because OP's text explicitly pluralises the pronoun (by attaching the Saxon genitive to *you guys* rather than using the ambiguously singular/plural *your*), only *grades* really works. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-21T15:25:07.757

2I can't imagine a teacher using you guys'... – J.R. – 2016-08-21T18:43:21.340

I might use something like that, with adults, making sure there's discussion on what other kinds of options exist, and how they are interpreted by different students. – Jim Reynolds – 2016-08-22T10:09:51.050

And maybe with kids, in the way that adults some times say this kind of thing to children. With a lightfulness, a playfulness? Perhaps a kind of sternness in reprimand? – Jim Reynolds – 2016-08-22T10:11:31.407

1@JimR - Just to clarify, I meant that I can't imagine a teacher using you guys' in the context of explaining the grading scheme while going over the course syllabus on the first day of class. (Something like, "You guys don't forget that Project 2 is due on Monday" while the students are filing out the door on Friday afternoon wouldn't seem unusual at all.) – J.R. – 2016-08-22T15:42:29.267

I can understand your thought. I think I speak informally more to my students in Taiwan, because they have been often overtaught formal language! – Jim Reynolds – 2016-08-22T20:57:28.220



We can and do say both of them in standard English.

My sense is that most or many teachers who say that would probably not think about their choice of using grade or grades, and most students who hear it would probably not notice which choice the teacher made.

This is because we can think of the grade (or grades) and the situation in three ways.

The first way is to think that every student will get a grade, so there are multiple grades (every student will get one). Since the noun names more than one grade, we can use grades for the same simple reason we say Here are some apples.

The second way is to think of the grade is as a singular thing. It is a thing that the teacher calculates in a certain way, and the teacher is explaining to all of you how she calculates it. (That singular thing.)

I will illustrate this with an example. Suppose a fire department hires 15 new firefighters. On their first day, a trainer might greet the group by saying Welcome, everybody. Let me start by telling you some things about the (or your) job.

Here, the trainer is talking about (thinking about) a single job: firefighter, even though there are 15 people who have 15 new jobs.

Finally, we can conceptualize the message as the teacher speaking to each of you individually, about your grade, and only your grade, even though she is speaking to each of you all together at the same time.

Jim Reynolds

Posted 2016-08-21T14:28:30.817

Reputation: 9 616

So in the "grade" case, they think of the class as one entity like referring their grades to one grade, which is like a grade composition template. – HUN – 2016-08-22T02:51:18.790

I think that you are saying the same thing, yes. Or something similar. – Jim Reynolds – 2016-08-22T09:12:39.593


Because OP's example usage explicitly pluralises the pronoun (by attaching the Saxon genitive to you guys), only plural grades really works. (Note that you guys is a very informal usage itself.)

To illustrate that principle, compare...

1: 80% of your grades are based on course work projects
2: 80% of your grade is based on course work projects
3: 80% of the children's grades are based on course work projects
4: ? 80% of the children's grade is based on course work projects

If it had used the ambiguously singular/plural your, it's simply a matter of style / emphasis on the part of the teacher. Does he himself think (or does he want to encourage the students to think) that the class is a collective coherent entity capable of being "idealized" and distilled into a hypothetical single representative student, for example?

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2016-08-21T14:28:30.817

Reputation: 52 587

There's more than one student, but each student only gets one grade. This is tricky. – J.R. – 2016-08-21T18:42:09.590

@J.R.♦: I don't see anything at all tricky here, unless we contemplate the "pathological" case where several classes are in competition with each other (and each class has one single "collective grade" to be compared against that of every other class, as with something like an Olympic team). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-21T18:45:02.920

Grade works in my dialect of American English. Although I would say This task counts toward 30 percent of y'all's grade. Y'all is just as plural as you guys. – Alan Carmack – 2016-08-21T18:59:20.380

@Alan: I can understand that the current preponderance of votes for Jim's answer is simply because people aren't thinking things through, but in your case I can only suppose it really is a matter of "dialectal" variance. I'd be interested to know if you could bring yourself to endorse the usage in my example #4 above (I certainly can't). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-21T20:10:57.397

#1 and #3 are somewhere between ambiguous and misleading in British English. The intended meaning probably isn't "four out of every five children receive a grade based on course work, and the other child's grade is based on something else," but that's one way to interpret the sentences. #2 is fine - either you are talking to only one person, or you are talking to a group but the message is for each person individually. #4 should be "80% of each child's grade"... – alephzero – 2016-08-21T22:37:25.357

@alephzero: I think what that amounts to is you agree with my proposition that plural subjects such as *children* or *you guys* don't sit well with singular *grade*. There's no evidence that most other people voting here take that line! :( – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-21T23:44:43.813

(The idea that the grade of one out of every five children might be based on something other than coursework is an even more pathological one than mine! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2016-08-21T23:48:29.587