Composite Subjects 

Confusion as to the use singular or plural verb in subject – verb agreement.

Do compound subjects linked by and usually take a singular or plural noun? – Two nouns linked by and usually form a plural subject, so that the verbs and pronouns must also be plural.



• Julie and Philipe are the only students in the class who can speak French.

• Bolivia and Paraguay are the only two landlocked countries in South America.


However, some nouns linked by and have become so strongly connected that they form a composite subject (or double subject), expressing one idea rather than two. In such cases, we usually choose notional rather than grammatical agreement by using singular verbs and pronouns.



• Washing-and-drying with our new automatic takes only half the time it used to.

• The looting was a reminder of how appallingly people can behave when law and order breaks down.

• Bread and butter is included in the price.

• Gin and tonic is my favourite tipple.


In other circumstances, of course, we use grammatical agreement. Compare the following sentences:


• Bread and butter are always the first two items on my shopping list.

  (There are two shopping items: bread and butter.)

• Bread and butter is included in the price.

  (“Bread and butter” is a paired word; plural in form, but singular in meaning.)


• Tom and Jerry were cycling along the park.

  (There were two people cycling along the park: Tom and Jerry.)

• Tom and Jerry was my favorite cartoon films.

  (“Tom and Jerry” is the name of a famous cartoon film.)


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