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    #1

    is

    1 When he left and where he's going ____ an interesting question.---taken from a native speaker
    2 Just what happened to all that ash and how thousands of gallons of fire retardant sprayed on the forest is affecting its creatures ____ now the focus of much investigation.----taken from New York Times
    Dear teachers,

    I ran into one interesting question, both answers of the above are is. I am confused about whether they should read "are", because obviously both of them have double subjects, "when he left" and "where he's going", "what happened...." and "how ....is affecting its creatures". Personally I think they are separate ideas.

    Now could you please tell me why native English speakers think "is" is acceptable in these contexts. Thanks.


    Regards.

    LQZ

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    #2

    Re: is

    It's a tricky construction, one that has bothered writers for eons. The answer, I believe, lies in the combination of the multiple elements in your mind as one element, and that element "is" the singular focus or question.

    Peanut butter and jam is my favourite sandwich. (I think of peanut butter and jam as a mixture here)
    Peanut butter and jam are essential elements in my favourite sandwich. (Here, I think of them as separate entities)

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    #3

    Re: is

    Quote Originally Posted by jlinger View Post
    It's a tricky construction, one that has bothered writers for eons. The answer, I believe, lies in the combination of the multiple elements in your mind as one element, and that element "is" the singular focus or question.

    Peanut butter and jam is my favourite sandwich. (I think of peanut butter and jam as a mixture here)
    Peanut butter and jam are essential elements in my favourite sandwich. (Here, I think of them as separate entities)
    Hi, jlinger, I got it. Thank you.

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    #4

    Re: is

    Dear teachers,

    I am back with one more question, if there are three subjects, should "is" still be used? For example,

    Just what happened to all that ash, how thousands of gallons of the fire retardant sprayed on the forest were affecting its creatures, and why the Station fire lasted so long is now the focus of much investigation.


    Looking forward to your help.


    LQZ

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    #5

    Re: is

    It doesn't matter how many there are, it's still a question of how you feel about them, as a unit, or individually.

    But in this case, I think it's lazy construction. To say "the focus" is to suggest a pretty narrow scope. Yet the three elements listed are quite different in my mind. I think they have three focuses, and that's impossible, so the writer should have found another way to say it. Perhaps, "are now the areas they are concentrating their investigation on" or somethingn like that, using the plural.

    They could have more logically used the singular to say, "all that ash and how it has affected lifestock and the fire retardant spray is now the focus...." But then, that's not what the writer wanted to say.

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    #6

    Re: is

    Quote Originally Posted by LQZ View Post
    Now could you please tell me why native English speakers think "is" is acceptable in these contexts.
    In addition to jlinger's posts, which I agree with wholeheartedly, the apparent rule-breaker here could be a matter of synonymy, notably the similarity in function and meaning between conjunctions and ~ as well as. That is, it is possible that speakers are using and to mean as well as:



    1. When he left as well as where he's going is an interesting question.

    2. Just what happened to all that ash as well as how thousands of gallons of fire retardant sprayed on the forest is affecting its creatures as well as why ... is now the focus of much investigation.


    Phrases introduced by as well as do not compound the subject and the reason the verb is singular.

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