Are Subjects Joined by "And" Singular or Plural? - Grammar Rules

If you're uncertain whether subjects joined by and should be singular or plural, you've come to the right place. The simple answer is here.
Author:
Publish date:

Q: I’m writing a letter and am uncertain whether subjects joined by and should be singular or plural. So which sentence is correct: Your passion and commitment to my company HAVE inspired many, or, Your passion and commitment to my company HAS inspired many? —Carrie G.

subjects-joined-by-and

This kind of thing used to trip me up, too, as a subject with multiple nouns in it seems like it should always be plural. But that isn’t always the case. The way you group the items determines whether it’s a singular subject or a plural subject (and whether you’d use the plural verb have or the singular has). Let me explain.

Sentence subjects that have independent nouns connected by and are plural, thus requiring plural verbs (such as have). One trick to tell if the nouns are independent from each other is to divide the sentence into two sentences and see if the meaning stays the same. For example: The baseball players and the manager were disappointed after losing the big game. When divided, the sentences read: The baseball players were disappointed after losing the big game. The manager was disappointed after losing the game. The meaning is the same and these nouns are thus independent of each other, making the original sentence a plural sentence and requiring a plural verb (were).

Let’s apply this trick to the sentence in question, Your passion and commitment to my company have inspired many. It can be divided into two sentences and keep the same meaning (Your passion to my company has inspired many; your commitment to my company has inspired many), therefore it’s plural and requires the plural verb have.

Not all subjects using and to connect nouns are plural, though. Sentence subjects that have multiple nouns connected by and that refer to a singular thing require singular verbs. Consider, Green eggs and ham was Sam-I-Am’s favorite dish. In this sentence, green eggs and ham is one specific dish in and of itself, so you use the singular verb was. If you divide this sentence (Green eggs was his favorite dish/Ham was his favorite dish) you change the meaning—and Sam-I-Am would be pretty disappointed if you had him over for dinner and served only half of his favorite meal.

When in doubt, divide the sentence to see which verb you need. It will help you on your grammatical quest toward subject/verb agreement.

Want other Grammar Rules? Check out:
Sneaked vs. Snuck
Who vs. Whom
Lay vs. Lie vs. Laid 
Which vs. That
Since vs. Because
Ensure vs. Insure
Home in vs. Hone in
Leaped vs. Leapt

X3961_GrammarDesk.jpg

Thanks for visiting The Writer's Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

brian-klems-2013

Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian's free Writer's Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a future poem.

new_agent_alert_tasneem_motala_the_rights_factory

New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Miller_1:19

Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.

Batra&DeCandido_1:18

Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.

incite_vs_insight_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Cleland_1:17

Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.