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    #1

    a box of books are vs is

    "A box of books as well as suitcases ......... under the table."

    A. is
    B. are
    C.......
    D.........

    I chose two options on the test A and B. Which one would be correct? From what I know I could use both for "a box of books".

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    #2

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    This is the sort of question that is of real concern only to the writers of pointless test questions. The grammatical purist would say that only A is correct, but I suspect that many native speakers would not consider 'are' to be incorrect.

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    #3

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    "A box of books as well as suitcases ......... under the table."

    A. is
    B. are
    C.......
    D.........

    I chose two options on the test A and B. Which one would be correct? From what I know I could use both for "a box of books".
    The ambiguity in the statement is also what causes the confusion. Is there one box, which contains books and suitcases, under the table? If so, then "A box of books ... is under the table." If there is a box of books and there are suitcases under the table, then "are" would be appropriate. As there is no way of telling which situation was intended in the question, there is no correct (or incorrect) answer!

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    #4

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    If there is a box of books and there are suitcases under the table, then "are" would be appropriate
    True, but if there is a box of books as well as some suitcases, then the 'rule' appears to be, "When two subjects are joined by as well as, together with or a similar expression, the verb is usually singular if the first subject is singular" (Swan (2005) Practical English Usage (3rd edn), OUP. This is a rule more honoured in the breach, as I suggested in post #2.

    A further point is that it is probably more normal for most speakers, if they don't use 'and' instead of 'as well as' in the first place, to put the 'as well as ...' at the end:

    A is under the table, as well as B. Even more natural would be to start with a 'there's/are':

    There is a box... as well as some suitcases under..
    There are some suitcases as well as a box ...


    To make matters worse, the test writer has perversely chosen 'A box (singular) of 'books (plural) to make it more difficult to to choose the officially correct 'is'. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to catch the learner out in a sentence which native speakers don't agree on, and which they probably wouldn't utter in that form anyway.

    The use of the word 'usually' in the 'rule' renders the exercise even more pointless, quite apart from the ambiguity emsr2dt noted.

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    #5

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    True, but if there is a box of books as well as some suitcases, then the 'rule' appears to be, "When two subjects are joined by as well as, together with or a similar expression, the verb is usually singular if the first subject is singular" (Swan (2005) Practical English Usage (3rd edn), OUP. This is a rule more honoured in the breach, as I suggested in post #2.

    A further point is that it is probably more normal for most speakers, if they don't use 'and' instead of 'as well as' in the first place, to put the 'as well as ...' at the end:

    A is under the table, as well as B. Even more natural would be to start with a 'there's/are':

    There is a box... as well as some suitcases under..
    There are some suitcases as well as a box ...


    To make matters worse, the test writer has perversely chosen 'A box (singular) of 'books (plural) to make it more difficult to to choose the officially correct 'is'. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to catch the learner out in a sentence which native speakers don't agree on, and which they probably wouldn't utter in that form anyway.

    The use of the word 'usually' in the 'rule' renders the exercise even more pointless, quite apart from the ambiguity emsr2dt noted.
    I've been doing some research. Here's what I've come across in "The Grammar Book Marianne-Celce Mursia, Dianne Larsen-Freeman, Howard Williams. Manufactured in the USA''

    "Although American English speakers favor the singular form, in British English plural subject-verb agreement occurs much more frequently. In both dialects,however, speakers can choose to interpret the noun as a hole unit or as the individual members or components that compose the unit:


    (It was looking for prey
    "A flock of berds is cercling the field.
    (They were looking for prey

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    #6

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    Celce-Murcia et al are talking about collective nouns, which have nothing to do with this thread. Nobody doubts that in the simple sentence "A box of books is/are on the table" the verb should be 'is'.

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    #7

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    Can anyone imagine a native speaker actually saying "A box of books as well as suitcases is/are under the table"?

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    #8

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    Can anyone imagine a native speaker actually saying "A box of books as well as suitcases is/are under the table"?
    That's how we get lower grades on the test.

    Sorry for coming up with inappropriate answer to this thread. I thought "collective nouns" are somehow related to it.

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    #9

    Re: a box of books are vs is

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    Sorry for coming up with inappropriate answer to this thread. I thought "collective nouns" are somehow related to it.
    With some of the material you deal with, it wouldn't surprise me at all if you had been taught that 'box' was a collective noun

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