a combination of methods is/are used

Caribou88

Senior Member
English - Canada
Hello all,

I’m not sure whether I should use is or are.

Here’s the sentence:

“Teaching is most effective when a combination of methods is/are used.”

My hunch is are, but Microsoft Word begs to differ.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
 
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Technically, HeyPresto's right, but there's some room to exercise judgment when you have a collective noun followed by a plural noun right next to the verb. Both as writer and as editor, I'd opt for "are" here, precisely because the reader would find "is" so jarring.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Technically, HeyPresto's right, but there's some room to exercise judgment when you have a collective noun followed by a plural noun right next to the verb. Both as writer and as editor, I'd opt for "are" here, precisely because the reader would find "is" so jarring.
    How about with more commonly occuring combinations of nouns like 'a bunch of flowers' or 'a box of chocolates'? In these instances would you would use 'is', or 'are'?
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    How about with more commonly occurring combinations of nouns like 'a bunch of flowers' or 'a box of chocolates'? In these instances would you would use 'is' or 'are'?
    These two examples aren't the same. "Bunch" is a collective noun; "box" isn't.

    I'd say: A bunch of flowers were sitting in a vase on the table. A box of chocolates was on the table, too.
     

    lixiaohejssz

    Senior Member
    You're all the native speakers, aren't you? You're not in agreement, then what shall I do? I'm not willing to take the test if there is something like, A bunch of flowers ____smiling at me. A. is B. are :(
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm really intrigued by this thread, given all the previous threads indicating that BrE-speakers are far more likely than AmE-speakers to treat a collective noun as plural (we use the singular when we're thinking of the collective noun as an entity, the plural when we're thinking of the individual elements within it).

    For me, "a combination of methods" is inescapably singular (as is "a bunch of flowers"):).
     
    For me, too, Loob. I see Parla's point that it might sound jarring to some readers, but I would still use the singular verb here because the subjects - "combination" and "bunch" - are singular. I hesitate to say it's a rule because clearly some good writers would make a different choice, but I think lixiaohejzzs would be safer saying "... when a combination of methods is used" on a test.
     
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