In English Grammar, the Word 'Concord' Relates to an Agreement

Boys agreement
"And so we are left with the basic proposition that grammatical concord is desirable in number and person, but that in many circumstances notional concord arises from the presence of collective nouns, some of the indefinite pronouns, and other causes of 'abnormality'" ( Unlocking the English Language by Robert Burchfield). Simon Watson / Getty Images

In English grammar, concord is another term for grammatical agreement between two words in a sentence. In fact, it is derived from the Latin for "agreeing." Concord is relatively limited in modern EnglishSubject-verb concord in terms of number is conventionally marked by inflections (or word endings). Noun-pronoun concord calls for agreement between a pronoun and its antecedent in terms of number, person, and gender.

Agreement and Concord

  • "These innocent terms have led to considerable confusion. For many linguists they are synonymous: the trend is toward the use of 'agreement,' which is the term I shall use. Some others have distinguished the terms, but they have done so in contradictory and potentially confusing ways." (Greville G. Corbett, "Agreement," Cambridge University Press, 2006)
  • "There is a long tradition of treating agreement on verbs and agreement on adjectives as two quite different phenomena. Indeed, the two are sometimes given different names: concord for the phenomenon of adjectives agreeing with the nouns they modify, as opposed to agreement proper for the relation verbs have with their subjects and objects. For example, [Noam] Chomsky (2001:34n.5) writes 'There is presumably a similar but distinct agreement relation, concord, involving Merge alone.' And there are some good reasons for this traditional distinction." (Mark C. Baker, "The Syntax of Agreement and Concord," Cambridge University Press, 2008)
  • "Concord or agreement occurs when one element in a sentence takes on the morphosyntactic features of another element." (Mark Aronoff and Kirsten Fudeman, "What Is Morphology?" 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

    Concord in Different Languages

    • "[S]ome languages, such as Spanish, require that all modifiers agree with the nouns they modify in number, but in English, only this and that change their form [to these and those] to show such agreement. Highly synthetic languages, such as Latin, usually have a great deal of concord; thus Latin adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in number (bonus vir 'good man,' boni viti 'good men'), in gender (bona femina 'good woman'), and in case (bonae feminae 'good woman's'). English once used concord more than it does now." (John Algeo, "The Origins, and Development of the English Language," 6th ed., Wadsworth, 2010)

    Mixed Concord or "Discord"

    "[M]ixed concord or 'discord' (Johansson 1979:205), i.e. the combination of a singular verb and a plural pronoun 'typically occurs when there is considerable distance between the co-referent noun phrases; discord is generally motivated by notional considerations, i.e., a tendency toward agreement with the meaning, rather than the form, of the subject noun phrase (Biber et al. 1999:192). Mixed concord or discord shows a fairly complicated interaction of regional, stylistic, and interlinguistic variation:

    "a. mixed concord is slightly more common in AmE than in BrE, NZE or AusE (cf. Trugdill & Hannah 2002:72; Hundt 1998:85; Johansson 1979:205)
    "b. mixed concord is more often used in informal and spoken language than in formal, written language (cf. Levin 2001:116; Biber et al. 1999:332)
    "c. some collective nouns are more likely to yield mixed concord than others e.g. family and team vs. government and commmittee (cf. Hundt 1998:85)"

    (Marianne Hundt, "Concord With Collective Nouns in Australian and New Zealand English." "Comparative Studies in Australian and New Zealand English: Grammar and Beyond," ed. by Pam Peters, Peter Collins, and Adam Smith. John Benjamins, 2009)