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Mar 25, 2013
I can't seem to sort this one out. Which words should be plural and which singular: these, sort, and games. Extra credit for explanations.

He was walking even faster without appearing to do so. I kept up, but mainly through sheer determination. I hoped he wasn’t going to play these sort of games often.

Possibilities include
this sort of game
these sorts of games
and the lovely dodge: this sort of game
It's "these sort of games" as the determiner (I think that's what it is...) has to agree with the plural "games", but "sort" can apply to a plural without being plural itself. I think. (I've just made up that explanation!)

EDIT: sheesh. You've got me puzzling over it now! It's definitely "these" but the more I think of it, the more I think "sorts" could be right in a different context. It might depend on how you're classifying the games and whether you think these games are in one class or type, or if they can be arranged into many different classes. For me, I'd still go with "these sort" as I see them as one group.
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Hmm. Not sure I concur.

The agreement goes pretty universally across that set of words, I think. It would be "these kinds of things" or "this kind of thing" or "these types of people" or "this type of person", so it should be either "these sorts of games" or "this sort of game".
But you would definitely say "these species of bird", right? So there must be some more subtle rule at work here.
OMG I was just wandering around my kitchen, muttering "types of bird" to myself, as an argument to my point above. Were you listening? :eek:
I was editing before you two joined in, so you'll see I was having second thoughts and my tentative rationale for my choice of wording.

I've been looking at the "Learner" definition of "sort" in Collins online which annoyingly doesn't have exactly this sort of sentence (yes, definitely singular there). But it does have "articles of this sort" and as a singular noun "What sort of men were they?"

"These sorts of things." Yes, I'd go with that. But "I love these sort of mushrooms" or "I'm often bewildered by these sort of grammatical problems" both seem more right to me than "sorts of". I'm sure it comes down to whether the noun is a single group despite being plural in itself eg there are several mushrooms but they are all chestnut mushrooms, so only one type -- in which case it could also be "I love this sort of mushroom" but that to me doesn't flow in nearly the same way.

This could just be my ungrammatical upbringing, though. But since this is first person narration, it doesn't matter if it is strictly ungrammatical!
Ain't this fun?
Srsly, thanks for the comments, both for perception and speed in replying. I've decided to go with the dodge. It reads more cleanly.

FTR, I would vote for "these sorts of games" but for a non-grammatical consideration: too many sibilants. (now that word popped this into my lurching brain: the Sybil Ant).

He was walking even faster without appearing to do so. I kept up, but mainly through sheer determination. I hoped he wasn’t going to play this sort of game often.

And yes, that ends on an adverb, which is a bit weak, but I've 80,000 more words to edit. Onward!
I can't quite pin down whether there's an actual rule in play here, or it's just a matter for the ears. My brain is full of snot at the moment.

Let me see if I can walk through it and figure it out.

I hoped he wasn’t going to play these sort of games often.

to play these games
to play this game
to play this sort of game

Ok, I'm good so far. Those all sound right.

to play this sort of games

No, that's definitely not good.

to play these sorts of games

Hmm. Let's try it with other words.

to see these birds
to see this bird
to see this type of bird
to see this type of birds
to see these types of birds

So, to me, it's the same there. Everything works except "this type of birds" / "this sort of games".
May I go off-piste, and suggest an alternative variation on a theme?

I hoped he wouldn’t play those sort of games often.

Strictly, 'those' is a plural of 'that', whereas 'these' is a plural of 'this'.* Feel free to ignore, though, if it doesn't work for you.

*Jings! I know some something. Nothing useful, but hey, it's something.
From a NY Times editing blog:

The Times’s stylebook warns us to be careful about singular and plural in phrases with the words “kind” or “sort.”

We should say “this kind of error” or “these kinds of errors,” but never “these kind of errors.” The plural demonstrative “these” (or “those”) can’t modify the singular “kind.”

But a question - is the 'he' referenced in the following extract playing more than one type of game (in the earlier bits of the story)?
He was walking even faster without appearing to do so.

If so, then I'd go with 'these sorts'; but if this is the one act, so far, of gamesmanship he's exhibited, I'd think it would be 'this sort'. The plural 'these' wouldn't be appropriate, I'd think, if he's only played one sort of game so far; 'this sort' could entail a variety of games, as long as they were of a similar sort...if that makes any sense, at all. I'm not sure it does. :)
Fair question. This is early in the story. Gabrielle has seen men play all sorts of games to establish themselves in relation to a female. She's thinking this--walking fast--might be just another game played by a man. But she's only just met him a little while ago, so she's not sure. That's why she hopes it isn't.
Don't know if this will help, but I often find that leaving out the 'of' and the following noun or noun group can clarify things; if the sentence still makes good grammatical sense, then it's probably OK. In this case these sort of games doesn't make sense, grammatically: there is disagreement in number. Sort needs to be sorts.

Something else to note is that whenever we use noun[1] + of + noun[2] in this way, noun[2] becomes a class of object (if you'll excuse the programming jargon); a category, if you like. Names applied to classes/categories often function as uncountable (mass) nouns, which typically do not take the plural. These sorts of games is OK, but these sorts of game is spot on.
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Would ‘local practice’ come into play. I mean not necessarily U.K. vs US English but just familiarity and meaning re sort vs type?

If you (one) take a similar clause of ‘anything of the sort,’ or ‘its not that sort/type of thing’ isn’t it down to ear-preference?

If I was editing my own work, I’d have reduced the line to a simple ‘these games’ as I’m always trying to economise on my large word counts.

Brutally put, imo the distinction is moot because I’d’ve edited it down. From your perspective, does ‘type/sort’ add to the sentence in a meaningful way? You can bypass this by simplifying to ‘these games’ and then voting for me in the 300 worder.

Whatever: Harebrain wins the internet today for the exceedingly smart taxonomy quip.

I agree with @TheDustyZebra :

:: however don't even try to add fish and fishes into the equation.

Heh heh. So funny (and glad) you mentioned this. As an ichthyophile I always disliked the word ‘fishes’ over ‘fish’ for plurals. Oddly though, when I write of fish in a religious setting I call them fishes. At all other times they’re ‘fish’. I don’t know why I split them to secular and non-secular- I’m guessing it has something to do with loaves and hungry people in the Golan Heights ;)

The proper way is.
plural of fish of one type are fish
plural of fish of various types are fishes.
Look it up--don't take my word for it

One fish
Two fish
Red fish
Blue fish
in order of rhyme
to avoid any crime
while it might sound pernicious
all together they are fishes.
It is definitely "These sorts of games", as it is being used as a form of example in past tense, and being used as a metaphor. I believe if it were present tense you would use the singular term, but I am not entirely sure about that, I have never written present tense nor do I have any desire to. Future tense, well...I just find future tense to be an absolutely silly way of writing.

"This sort of game" implies less importance on the emotional metaphor and less impactful on the narrator's feelings about it, to me.
It depends....

From the example given, it isn't entirely clear what the situation is.
  1. If only one game has been played so far (once or more than once): I hoped he wasn’t going to play this game often;
  2. If different games have been played, but of the same sort: I hoped he wasn’t going to play this sort of game often;
  3. If different games have been played, and of different sorts: I hoped he wasn’t going to play these sorts of game(s) often.**
The above does, of course, depend on: a) how the PoV character differentiates between games and between types of game; b) the PoV character's reaction to the situation.

If the PoV character in this instance (or generally) emphasises the difficulties they face, situation (1) may lead to statements (2) or (3).

** - Note that, like some others, I am having trouble deciding which of "sorts of game" and "sorts of games" is better... but perhaps you should let your PoV character decide which one they would prefer to use. After all, different people will use different versions, and 1st Person and Third Person Close allow you to show the nature of each PoV character through means which include the choices each makes about which words and phrases to use. :)
I've tried letting my POV characters decide things, but I'll ask them a question and then ... nothing. They don't respond until I write a line for them. I'm beginning to suspect they exist only in my head.

Anyways, thanks for all the feedback. I went with a circumlocution and dodged the grammatical issue entirely. I'm way cleverer than my characters.