Synesis is a traditional grammatical/rhetorical term derived from Greek σύνεσις (originally meaning "unification, meeting, sense, conscience, insight, realization, mind, reason").
A constructio kata synesin (or constructio ad sensum in Latin) means a grammatical construction in which a word takes the gender or number not of the word with which it should regularly agree, but of some other word implied in that word. It is effectively an agreement of words with the sense, instead of the morphosyntactic form.
- If the band are popular, they will play next month.
Here, the plural pronoun they and the plural verb form are co-refer with the singular noun band. One can think of the antecedent of they as an implied plural noun such as musicians.
Such use in English grammar is often called notional agreement (or notional concord), because the agreement is with the notion of what the noun means, rather than the strict grammatical form of the noun (the normative formal agreement). The term situational agreement is also found, since the same word may take a singular or plural verb depending on the interpretation and intended emphasis of the speaker or writer; so:
- The government is united. (Implication: it is a single cohesive body, with a single agreed policy).
- The government are divided. (Implication: it is made up of different individuals or factions, with their own different policy views).
- American and British English differences: Formal vs. notional agreement
- Collective noun, whose notion is plural but form singular.
- Elohim, a Hebrew word whose number varies.
- Singular they, whose notion is singular but form plural.
- Hadumod Bussmann (7 March 2013). Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. Routledge. p. 470. ISBN 978-1-134-63038-7. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- Quirk, Randolph; Greenbaum, Sidney; Leech, Geoffrey; Svartvik, Jan (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. Harlow: Longman. ISBN 0-582-51734-6.