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Singular or Plural in Predicative Expressions?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by erikus, Sep 30, 2012.

  1. erikus Junior Member

    norwegian
    I wonder what is the grammatically correct form of the verb – singular or plural – in predicative expressions where one part is singular and the other part plural. For instance:

    Pictures of happy students is/are a nice feature.
    Another problem is/are his depression and anxiety.

    My intuition (I am not a native speaker) says "is" would be right, but I can't figure out why. What is considered the subject in these situations?
     
  2. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    I would instinctively make the verb agree with the first element: Pictures...are..., Another problem is..., but wait for more opinions.
     
  3. teny New Member

    Norwegain
    Any ideas?
     
  4. Rival Senior Member

    English - UK
    In English, the verb must agree with the subject.

    Pictures (of happy students) are a nice feature.
    Another problem is his depression and anxiety.

    If you reverse them --
    A nice feature is pictures of happy students.
    His depression and anxiety are another problem. (although I would probably say '... are other problems'.)
    .
     
  5. teny New Member

    Norwegain
    Thank you very much!
     
  6. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    The general principle is to have the verb agree with the subject, which is the first noun phrase, but exceptions can be found. When a sentence is equating two things, A = B, it can of course be reversed to say B = A. The subject is A in the first case and B in the second, and should agree accordingly. Noun phrases beginning with 'what' do not have an intrinsic number, so they sometimes get ignored when they're the subject:

    What we need here is/are some flowers and pictures.
     

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