reason for the success of the aged elite is / are

Discussion in 'English Only' started by snooprun, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. snooprun

    snooprun Senior Member

    This is a sentence I met in an exam:

    Another reason for the success of The aged elite are the traits they formed earlier in their lives. My quetion is why is "are" being used here? Since the subject is "another reason" , I thought the predicate should be "is". I am so confused, please help me out. Many thanks.
  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I agree with you, snooprun. I would definitely write "is" in your sentence.

    Some people disagree, though, and argue that the verb should agree with the complement. It's a position I find difficult to understand, to be honest:(.
  3. snooprun

    snooprun Senior Member

    Thanks indeed Loob. As a rule, the predicate should agree with the subject, but what confuses me is in which cases should it agree with the word next to it. Hope I can find the answer.
  4. I'm with Loob on this. "The reason is the traits ..." seems right, though I understand that is + plural sounds a bit odd in the ear.
  5. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    USA English
    I believe that the answer is outside of grammar rules. It is common for speakers to use are instead of is in a sentence constructed as you example. The usage has gone on so long that it is now acceptable.
  6. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    I don't find it acceptable to use "are" after "the reason".
    Or to put it another way, I can't think of any examples where I would use the plural.
    However, we undoubtedly come across an example where we think twice or find it hard to decide one way or another because "it sounds right".
    The original sentence is not one of these examples!
  7. snooprun

    snooprun Senior Member

    Thanks Harry Batt, so you're suggesting that both words are acceptable in this case; but when is it ungrammatical to do so?
  8. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    I'd choose the singular form because is is a linking verb and it has to agree with its subject, reason, which is singular.

    Traits is the predicate nominative and doesn't have jurisdiction in this sentence.

    I think. :D

    If you want to use are, you'd have to switch the sentence around:

    The traits formed earlier in their lives are another reason for the success of the aged elite.
  9. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I'd avoid the entire dilemma by restructuring, if that's an option in your exam. For example: "Another reason for the success of the aged elite: the traits..." Or, "The success of the aged elite is based in part on the traits..."

    If restructuring is forbidden, then I'd say that the verb should be is.

  10. snooprun

    snooprun Senior Member

    Nice suggestion though, but I was asked to correct errors in a passage (where I met this sentence) , but the key shows this usage is correct.
  11. snooprun

    snooprun Senior Member

    Thanks everyone for helping me out.

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