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  1. Anonymous
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    #1

    english grammar - help please

    I was given to choose which one of the following two sentences is grammactically correct. I have asked quite a few so call experts. Some said No.1 is correct and some said No. 2 is correct. I am very confused so I am asking real english experts here.

    1. What colour is my pencils?
    2. What colour are my pencils?

    Please kindly explain why your answer is correct.

    Many Thanks
    Tom Tong

  2. RonBee's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: english grammar - help please

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous
    I was given to choose which one of the following two sentences is grammactically correct. I have asked quite a few so call experts. Some said No.1 is correct and some said No. 2 is correct. I am very confused so I am asking real english experts here.

    1. What colour is my pencils?
    2. What colour are my pencils?

    Please kindly explain why your answer is correct.
    The sentences are inverted, with the subject at the end instead of at its usual place at the beginning. The verb should agree with the subject. Thus, it should be: "What colour is my pencil?" or "What colour are my pencils?" Put the sentence(s) in its normal order, and you have something like: "My pencil is blue" or "My pencils are blue and red."

  3. tom tong
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    #3
    I thought the subject of the sentences is "colour" and not "pencils" so that verb to be should be in its singular form "is".The reply to the above sentence " what colour....." could be :
    "The colour of my pencils is blue"

    The scence behind the original question might be there are a batch of pencils of the same colour and so the original question comes out to be "what colour......" and not "what colours....".

    If the scence behind the original question is that there is a batch of pencils of different colours, the question will then come come out to be "what colours.....", but this is not the original question. The reply to the question asking "what colours ......." could possibly receive a reply of:
    "The colours of my pencils are red and blue."

    I am still a bit confused and hope to be enlightened.

    Thanks,
    Tom Tong

  4. RonBee's Avatar
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    #4
    In "The colour of my pencils is blue" the simple subject is colour and the entire subject is The colour of my pencils. It is, in either case, a singular subject.

    It is certainly possible to say, "What colour are my pencils?", which assumes that the pencils are all the same color. In that (inverted) sentence the subject is pencils.

    I hope that helps.

    :)

  5. tom tong
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    #5
    Thanks a lot Ron.

    Anyone wants to make further comment, concur with Ron or have comment otherwise?

    Thanks a lot, this is a great site to learn English.

    Tom Tong

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    #6
    Hi there Tom! Welcome to UsingEnglish!

    Quote Originally Posted by tom tong
    Anyone wants to make further comment, concur with Ron or have comment otherwise?
    I'm sure they will.

    Quote Originally Posted by tom tong
    Thanks a lot, this is a great site to learn English.
    Thanks Tom! It's always great to hear that people find our site useful, and I know Ron appreciates you thanking him (he spends a lot of time here helping out).

    Spread the word! :wink:
    I'm not a teacher, so please consider any advice I give in that context.

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    #7
    You can use the question 'What colours...' when you know, or have a good idea, that something has more than one:
    What colours are there in the Italian flag?

  6. RonBee's Avatar
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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    What colours are there in the Italian flag?
    Green, white, and red (from left to right)

    :wink:

  7. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #9
    [quote="tom tong"]I thought the subject of the sentences is "colour" and not "pencils" so that verb to be should be in its singular form "is".The reply to the above sentence " what colour....." could be :
    "The colour of my pencils is blue"

    The scence behind the original question might be there are a batch of pencils of the same colour and so the original question comes out to be "what colour......" and not "what colours....".

    If the scence behind the original question is that there is a batch of pencils of different colours, the question will then come come out to be "what colours.....", but this is not the original question. The reply to the question asking "what colours ......." could possibly receive a reply of:
    "The colours of my pencils are red and blue."

    As Ron said, in English questions, the subject and verb are inverted. Therefore, "pencils" is the subject of the sentence. The verb should be plural to match the subject.

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    #10
    To show grammatically that 'pencils' is the subject, try inverting the sentence and you'll get nonsense:

    Blue is my pencil.

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