When "what" is the subject, should the verb agree in number with the predicate?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sound shift, Dec 14, 2007.

  1. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I can't find the answer on the Internet or in this forum.

    Which is preferred/correct:

    What I need is two strong men to carry this wardrobe [verb agrees in number with "what", which is singular] or

    What I need are two strong men to carry this wardrobe [verb agrees in number with plural predicate]?

    I hear both variants.

    Have any of you forer@s seen a source that offers guidance on this?
     
  2. speedier

    speedier Senior Member

    The former is correct, but I'm sorry that I don't have a source for you:

    What I need is two strong men to carry this wardrobe [verb agrees in number with "what", which is singular]
     
  3. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Thanks, speedier.

    I think my usage tends towards the first one, but I heard Michael Palin using the second, so I started to wonder.
     
  4. gvergara

    gvergara Senior Member

    Santiago, Chile
    Español
    At least I found a source, and a good one. Take a look

    A what_ clause is normally considered to be singular [...] But a plural verb is sometimes possible before a plural noun in an informal style.

    What we want is/are some of those cakes.
    From "Practical English Usage" by Michael Swan, p.106; Ed. Oxford
     
  5. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    ¡Estupendo, gvergara! Thank you very much.
     
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
  7. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Thanks, Thomas.
     

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