Two gallons of paint <is><are>…

Ari.ap

Member
Persian
Hi. would you mind telling me which verb is appropriate for the following sentence, please? " Two gallons of paint ( is, are ) all we need. "
Thank you in advance.
 
  • Ari.ap

    Member
    Persian
    Correct. Plural or singular?
    plural.

    You know, my teacher told us that "two gallons" like the amount of money comes with singular verb.
    for example " Over $ 1,500 has already been withheld from his salary for federal income taxes."
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    So you have found the answer for yourself. :)

    However, people use both and although "Two gallons of paint are all we need" is obviously grammatical, it is common to regard "two gallons of paint" as a unit, so you will also see and hear "Two gallons of paint is all we need."

    "Over $1,500 has already been withheld from his salary for federal income taxes" is not quite the same, because of that "over". Over 1,500 dollars is not a plural subject, it's a noun phrase which is singular. Take it away and we have two sentences, both of which are used:
    "1,500 dollars has already been withheld from his salary for federal income taxes."
    "1,500 dollars have already been withheld from his salary for federal income taxes."
    I would use the second one.
     

    Ari.ap

    Member
    Persian
    So you have found the answer for yourself. :)

    However, people use both and although "Two gallons of paint are all we need" is obviously grammatical, it is common to regard "two gallons of paint" as a unit, so you will also see and hear "Two gallons of paint is all we need."

    "Over $1,500 has already been withheld from his salary for federal income taxes" is not quite the same, because of that "over". Over 1,500 dollars is not a plural subject, it's a noun phrase which is singular. Take it away and we have two sentences, both of which are used:
    "1,500 dollars has already been withheld from his salary for federal income taxes."
    "1,500 dollars have already been withheld from his salary for federal income taxes."
    I would use the second one.
    I am so thankful for your assistance, I'm going to tell my teacher what you taught me. Thank you again. :)

    Hi, I hope your are doing well. I forgot to say that in my book called Modern English, it was written as a point that " Nouns representing quantities and amounts that are considered as on unit are singular- five dollars, three quarts." I'd like to know whether this point has been written completely and precisely? Thank you in advance. :)
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Nouns representing quantities and amounts that are considered as one unit are singular- five dollars, three quarts.
    Yes, that is correct. The important words are "that are considered as one unit". I commented on this earlier.
    it is common to regard "two gallons of paint" as a unit, so you will also see and hear "Two gallons of paint is all we need."
    Five dollars are on the table - perhaps that is five one-dollar bills.
    Five dollars is cheap for a double quarter-pounder with cheese - the price is seen as a unit.

    It is the context that decides whether we are considering a plural or a singular meaning. This goes much wider than just numbers and quantities.
    Egg and bacon is the basis of a good breakfast. The combination seen as a unit.
    Egg and bacon make a popular breakfast dish. Seen as individual items which can be combined.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    What do you think the subject is?
    two gallons.
    Correct. Plural or singular?
    I disagree with this. I would have said that the subject was "two gallons of paint", where "paint" is the head noun and "two gallons of" is a quantifier. Paint is uncountable and the verb should be singular.

    However, this would not answer the "five dollars" question, where "five dollars" can be (and usually is) regarded as a singular quantity.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I disagree with this. I would have said that the subject was "two gallons of paint", where "paint" is the head noun and "two gallons of" is a quantifier. Paint is uncountable and the verb should be singular.

    However, this would not answer the "five dollars" question, where "five dollars" can be (and usually is) regarded as a singular quantity.

    I don't think there's any consensus on this, given that the Gods of Syntax haven't worked out all the kinks regarding agreement in English. With that in mind, "head" is commonly defined as the word that determines the syntactic category of the entire phrase. Accordingly, in of paint, it's the preposition "of" which determines that this is a prepositional phrase, and this prepositional phrase is a modifier of two gallons. (It should be noted that in some linguistic theories, the common definition of prepositional phrase has been challenged, as well as what counts as its "head.")

    Moreover, in a noun phrase, the "head" refers to what's left after all modifiers are removed. Accordingly, in two gallons of paint, removing the determiner "two," the plural-making suffix -s, and the prepositional phrase "of paint" leaves behind the noun "gallon," which becomes the "head" of the noun phrase.

    Does that mean that subject-verb agreement should be plural given that the head noun "gallons" is plural (Two gallons of paint are all we need)? There's no "should" here. What commonly happens is that agreement is guided by the word that carries semantic weight, in this case singular "paint" (it's what we are talking about): Two gallons of paint is all we need.

    Suppose we have two gallons of paints, where "paints" refers to types of paint. Should agreement be plural because "paints" is now plural? Again, this is not about "should." We can focus our attention on "two gallons" and see that as a unit: Two gallons of paints is all we need.

    Executive Summary: use is or are; for better or worse, syntax is neutral about it. And that means agreement is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.
     

    Ari.ap

    Member
    Persian
    I don't think there's any consensus on this, given that the Gods of Syntax haven't worked out all the kinks regarding agreement in English. With that in mind, "head" is commonly defined as the word that determines the syntactic category of the entire phrase. Accordingly, in of paint, it's the preposition "of" which determines that this is a prepositional phrase, and this prepositional phrase is a modifier of two gallons. (It should be noted that in some linguistic theories, the common definition of prepositional phrase has been challenged, as well as what counts as its "head.")

    Moreover, in a noun phrase, the "head" refers to what's left after all modifiers are removed. Accordingly, in two gallons of paint, removing the determiner "two," the plural-making suffix -s, and the prepositional phrase "of paint" leaves behind the noun "gallon," which becomes the "head" of the noun phrase.

    Does that mean that subject-verb agreement should be plural given that the head noun "gallons" is plural (Two gallons of paint are all we need)? There's no "should" here. What commonly happens is that agreement is guided by the word that carries semantic weight, in this case singular "paint" (it's what we are talking about): Two gallons of paint is all we need.

    Suppose we have two gallons of paints, where "paints" refers to types of paint. Should agreement be plural because "paints" is now plural? Again, this is not about "should." We can focus our attention on "two gallons" and see that as a unit: Two gallons of paints is all we need.

    Executive Summary: use is or are; for better or worse, syntax is neutral about it. And that means agreement is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.
    I appreciate it
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    You can always use the singular "There's..." informally, even when the semantic subject is clearly plural.

    There's piles of/a pile of washing to be done.
    There's dozens of eggs/an egg in the basket.
    There's/there are five crisp, new dollar-bills in my wallet.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think there's any consensus on this, given that the Gods of Syntax haven't worked out all the kinks regarding agreement in English.
    Your post says what I was thinking, but more elegantly than I could or would have done.
    And that means agreement is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.
    Including agreement on the "correct" answer to the question, no doubt. :)
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    And what about five dollars NOT as five one-dollar bills, but as an account figure transaction, for example:

    I'm looking at my online bank account and I don't know what this $5 is for.
     
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