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    #1

    Can 'what' refer to plural subjects?

    Once you have entered the library by walking through what look like metal detectors, follow the wall on your left.

    (There are two metal detectors; you can walk through either one.)


    This comes up for me a lot, but I've never asked about it. I always want to use a singular verb with what.

    Thanks,

    Donna

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Can 'what' refer to plural subjects?

    "What" is number-neutral. You need to know the thing(s) being referred to to choose the right verb.

    Pass what looks like the monolith from 2001...
    Pass what look like metal detectors...
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #3

    Re: Can 'what' refer to plural subjects?

    [QUOTE=donnach;840138]Once you have entered the library by walking through what look like metal detectors, follow the wall on your left.

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) May I add my two cents to the moderator's excellent answer?

    (2) Your question also confuses many of us native speakers. One of my

    teachers taught me to look at it this way:

    You enter the library by walking through things that look like metal detectors.

    You enter the library by walking though a thing that looks like a metal detector.


    P.S. You are correct. My books tell me that "what" was originally always

    singular. But usage has evolved over the years.

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