Is or are, a tricky one

Status
Not open for further replies.

johnnglsh

New member
Joined
Jun 12, 2010
Member Type
Other
"What makes each of us unique are our principles" or "What makes each of us unique is our principles"?
 

crazYgeeK

Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Vietnamese
Home Country
Vietnam
Current Location
Vietnam
"What makes each of us unique are our principles" or "What makes each of us unique is our principles"?

Neither is true.
It should be:
(the things) What make each of us unique are our principles
Thanks
 

sarat_106

Key Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2008
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
Oriya
Home Country
India
Current Location
India
"What makes each of us unique are our principles" or "What makes each of us unique is our principles"?

Here are two clauses joined by a relative pronoun (that) which is the subject of the secind clause but incidentally dropped. ‘that’ refers to the subject of the main clause ‘what’’ which is singular. So you need a singular verb ‘is’. In that case, replace plural noun ‘principles’ by singular noun ‘guiding principle’. Say:
What makes each of us unique (that) is our guiding principle
Or
Our guiding principle is what makes each of us unique.
 

crazYgeeK

Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Vietnamese
Home Country
Vietnam
Current Location
Vietnam
Here are two clauses joined by a relative pronoun (that) which is the subject of the secind clause but incidentally dropped. ‘that’ refers to the subject of the main clause ‘what’’ which is singular. So you need a singular verb ‘is’. In that case, replace plural noun ‘principles’ by singular noun ‘guiding principle’. Say:
What makes each of us unique (that) is our guiding principle
Or
Our guiding principle is what makes each of us unique.

do you mean we can't make a sentence with phrasal plural 'our principles' in this case.
 

sarat_106

Key Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2008
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
Oriya
Home Country
India
Current Location
India
do you mean we can't make a sentence with phrasal plural 'our principles' in this case.

When the pronoun (Each) is followed by an 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:

TheParser

VIP Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2009
Member Type
Other
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
"What makes each of us unique are our principles" or "What makes each of us unique is our principles"?

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Johnnglsh.

(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

analyze:

(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 *****
 

crazYgeeK

Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Vietnamese
Home Country
Vietnam
Current Location
Vietnam
***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Johnnglsh.

(1) Some experts say that "what" is always singular ("The thing that").

So your second sentence would be correct.

I don't understand if "what makes each of us unique is our principles" is true , so I can be sure that "It is our principles" is also true, isn't it?
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.
 

TheParser

VIP Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2009
Member Type
Other
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
I don't understand if "what makes each of us unique is our principles" is true , so I can be sure that "It is our principles" is also true, isn't it?
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.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello.

(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

"principleS."

(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

is right.)

(5) If you have more questions, please post them. Many people here

will be very happy to try to answer them.

***** Thank you *****
 

Raymott

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2008
Member Type
Academic
Native Language
English
Home Country
Australia
Current Location
Australia
I don't understand if "what makes each of us unique is our principles" is true , so I can be sure that "It is our principles" is also true, isn't it?
Your use of "true" is incorrect. You mean "correct".
We don't say that a sentence is grammatically true. That has no meaning.
 

corum

Banned
Joined
Feb 8, 2010
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
Hungarian
Home Country
Hungary
Current Location
Hungary
'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 [STRIKE]are[/STRIKE] is our principles. :tick:
What make each of us unique are our principles. :tick:


to Theparser:

The 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

Nominal Relative Clauses @ The Internet Grammar of English
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top