The only thing she can trust (is / are) her dogs.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by wanabee, Apr 7, 2013.

  1. wanabee Senior Member

    Dear all,

    I hear she has no friends, and the only thing she can trust (is / are) her three dogs.

    I made up the sentence.
    I would like to know which of the "is" or "are" sounds more common to native English speakers.

    I would appreciate any comments.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013
  2. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    The only thing she can trust is the subject of the clause and so has to be followed by a singular verb (is).
    << deleted >> You could also write things, which takes a plural verb.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2013
  3. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    I realise that some here are new, but let's just remember the forum guidelines in The Longer Guide to English Only. In the section on answering questions you will see
    Please answer the question and then, if there's a good reason to do so, you can point out directly relevant improvements as in e2efour's post. Thank you.
  4. Jim2996 Senior Member

    Boston, MA
    American English
    We like to have our subjects and verbs agree.
    So, grammatically, it needs to be thing ... is or things ... are.

    Many people will just hear ... are ... dogs and accept the sentence. A lot of grammar mistakes go unnoticed.

    This is a very common error, especially in spoken language.
    I don't like it, but ...thing ... are ... dogs may be the most common. The other words hide the error.

    Using "is" in your sentence is grammatically correct, but most people will sense that something else is wrong.

    There are much better choices.

    First: Your sentence seems to imply that her dogs are things. This is very disrespectful. People often think of their dogs as cherished pets, companions, friends, and members of the family.

    Second: This is general writing advice. The word thing is overused. People use it when they can't think of the specific noun. If you have time to think and edit, it is almost always better to use a more specific noun. It's like using you-know-what-I-mean instead of actually saying what you mean.
    Two suggestions are "friends" or "friendship" (if you want it singular). There are many other more-specific nouns.

    Or, "thing" is used as a filler word. It's not needed. It adds nothing to the sentence. "She can only trust her three dogs." Is there something more that you want to add? There may be, but I doubt that it is "thing."

    The question that you asked is one that I wish more US college students would ask. Then, perhaps, simple grammar mistakes wouldn't be so common.

    Until next time.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013
  5. wanabee Senior Member

    Thank you very much, 1-word1, e2efour, and Jim2996!

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