"What makes each of us unique are our principles" or "What makes each of us unique is our principles"?
What makes each of us unique (that) is our guiding principle
Our guiding principle is what makes each of us unique.
of phrase containing a plural noun or pronoun “Each of us has an inner dream’, there is a tendency for the verb to be plural but most usage guides maintain that only the singular verb is correct. That is why ‘What makes each of us’ is more acceptable. Of course there are instances of plural verb being used as you have suggested.
Last edited by sarat_106; 12-Jun-2010 at 10:27.
(1) Some experts say that "what" is always singular ("The thing that").
So your second sentence would be correct.
(2) Today most experts say that "what" may be singular ("The thing
that") or plural ("The thingS that").
(3) I may be wrong, but I think that your sentence is "easy" to
(a) The writer said: What makeS. '
(b) Therefore, s/he was thinking of "the thing (singular) that."
(c) So your sentence is something like:
The thing (that makes each of us unique) IS our principles.
(i) The thing IS/ NEVER: The thing are.
(4) BUT please remember two things:
(a) Sometimes "what" is plural. ("The thingS are")
(b) It is not always easy to know whether to use "is" or "are."
(Even the experts often disagree.)
(c) Even though "is" is the "correct" answer to your question,
there are some (many?) native speakers who would use "are"
because it sounds "better" or "more natural."
(d) Here are two sentences from a very popular English usage book:
(I changed the example a little bit)
(i) What worries restaurant owners more ____ customers like John Doe.
(a) The usage book says that the "correct" answer is "is," but that
"are" sounds more "modern." The writer of that book says that "are"
in that sentence is NOT "wrong." Some books would say "are" IS wrong.
You are a learner. So you should probably follow the "rule"
and use "is" in your sentence. Remember: sometimes the "rule"
will require you to use "are." If you find other confusing "what"
sentences, be sure to post them here so that people can discuss them.
***** Thank you *****
I think it should be "what makes each of us unique is our principle"
Can you explain me more about "principle" , "principles" and the influence to the choice of "is" or "are" in this case please. Thanks.
(1) Thanks for your great question. I shall share what LITTLE I know.
(2) Teacher Sarat and I agree that the "correct" sentence is:
What (= the thing that) makes each of us unique IS our principleS.
(3) If I understand your question, you want to know whether we can
also express this idea with a sentence that begins with "It."
(a) This is what I discovered:
(i) Many years ago, you could say:
It is our principles what make each of us unique. =
It (what make each of us unique) is our principles.
(ii) Today "good" English requires:
It is our principles THAT MAKE each of us unique.
("That" agrees with "principles," so we say "make," NOT: makeS.
(4) Maybe I understand your confusion about "principle" and
(a) Maybe this example will help a little:
My favorite fruit IS orangeS. ("is" because of "fruit." It does NOT matter
that the noun is plural ("orangeS").
(b) Remember that "What makes each of us unique is our principles" =
The THING IS principleS. ("is" agrees with "thing"; it does NOT matter that
the noun is plural ("prinicipleS").
(c) In English, we often use the plural:
I like your principleS. (That is, ALL of your ideas about how you
live your life.)
But sometimes we use the singular:
I like Mr. Smith because he is a man of principle. (That is, he does what
(5) If you have more questions, please post them. Many people here
will be very happy to try to answer them.
***** Thank you *****
'what' can have singular as well as plural value. 'makes' in your sentence reveals the number of 'what': singular. But then, we have 'our principles', which is plural. A singular 'what' can't refer to a plural 'our principles', unless the latter is regarded as a unit.
What makes each of us unique
areis our principles.
What make each of us unique are our principles.
Nominal Relative Clauses @ The Internet Grammar of EnglishThe similarity with NPs can be further seen in the fact that certain nominal relatives exhibit number contrast:
Singular: [What we need] is a plan
Plural: [What we need] are new ideas