- For Teachers
It's in the Bible
The wages of sin are really what???
If you search in the dictionary, you will find out:
wage = noun [sing.] (also wages [pl.]) a regular amount of money that you earn, usually every week, for work or service
Then the word WAGES is plural, so the correct answer is ARE
Not in this case- it's singular. Damnation is not the same as a salary.
Yet another thing the Bible gets wrong.
It is 'is' because the sentence defines what is death. We can rephrase this sentence as "Death is the wages of sin". What is death? It is the wages of sin.
Just because the Bible said it or it was translated that way doesn't mean it's grammatically correct. Wages can't be singular. It isn't in any other case, and the Bible doesn't get special cases. It's literature like any other.
God said it.
I believe it.
That settles it!
It is singular because "wages" here is functioning as singular. You would happily have "the pay of sin is death" or "the reward of sin is death"-- and in the alternate, "the rewards of sin are death". It's impossible to match the number here, so one must take a pragmatic approach. Since "is" is the established form, stet.
VERY INTERESTING that 58% (at the time I took the poll) prefer "is". I can think of two reasons for this. 1) The sentence is always written using "is". That's the norm and, by definition, most of us adhere to the norm. 2) It's biblical. The religious among us (and there are many) are inclined to accept statements from the Bible as a literal translation. So "is" it is.
I voted for "are" because "wages" in every case but this one is used as a plural noun. (Wages are paid on Friday.) Also, "are" falls more softly on the eye and ear, making it aesthetically, if not technically, correct.
I was curious what one of my favorite reference sites, dictionary.com, had to say on the subject. It says that "wages" (can be) used with a singular or plural verb." It gives "The wages of sin is death" as an example, but doesn't declare that form of the verb as the only option.
I did a little more research, with my MS Word Grammar Checker. It allows the sentence with either "is" or "are"; however, the suggested change for "The wages of sin am death" is "is". (Lousy traditionalist Microsoft!)
"is" , notional concord, while "are", grammatical concord. as NNS, I prefer the latler.lol.
sin is abstract noun
This is why I hate our language. Also, I have to wonder which came first: the translation, or the exclusion of "wages" from standard subject-verb agreement rules.
Subject-verb agreement indicates the verb should be "is" (and we don't have verb-object agreement in English). You can make the argument that here "wages" is a notional singular, but the word doesn't get used that way anywhere else that I'm aware of (you say, "The pay is a thousand dollars" but "The wages are a thousand dollars").
Granted that the King James Bible deliberately used archaic language, but I don't think this is an example of that usage.
It wasn't archaic when they did the King James Bible; it's archaic now.
The greek word for "wages" is in the plural form. However, in English, the word "wages" was historically used as a singular (implying a plural dollar sum but a singular payment). The word "is" is necessary for the English construction but it is not required for the Greek construction (Oh, the joys of translation). When it was first translated into English, "wages is" was considered the correct English form. Since then, every Bible scholar appears to have learned this verse very early on in their religious life and have continued to translated it using is (because, it's always been done that way). Nevertheless, English language has changed and the correct translation into modern English is "are" (and that's one of the few instances in English when "is" and "are" come next to one another in a grammatically correct way!)