Is vs. Are

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One can easily tell whether to use is or are by taking a look at if the noun is singular or plural. When the noun is singular, we use is. For example: “He is my friend.” However, if the noun is the plural or there is more than one noun, we use are. For example: “They are my friends.” It is the most basic grammar rule for is vs. are. However, there are moments when it’s difficult to decide whether to use is or are, and both words appear to be right. Let’s learn about those tricky moments.

When to Use “Is”

Above, we learned the use of is in a singular subject that is the correct choice in most contexts. However, in some complicated scenarios, it’s difficult to tell the difference. Here are some examples:

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

Pronouns ending with “one” or “body” are called singular indefinite pronouns. While these pronouns may seem plural, you need to choose is.

Examples 

  • Everyone is having a great time.
  • No one is ready to attend the party.
  • Is anybody ready to go there?

Either/Or & Neither/Nor

Either and neither are adjectives and pronouns based on their use. When you use either or neither in front of a singular noun, it becomes an adjective.

 Examples 

  • Neither show is my favorite.
  • Either book is the right choice.

 Either/or & neither/nor as subjects are singular pronouns.

Examples 

  • Either the black dog or the white dog is scratching the floor.
  • Neither brother nor sister is able to attend the party.

Non-Countable Nouns

Since non-countable nouns such as money, jewelry, traffic, equipment, etc. have no specific numbers, they are always considered singular.

Examples 

  • Milk is leaking from the carton continuously.
  • Knowledge is the key to success.
  • Sleep is quite essential for physical as well as mental health.

Collective Nouns

Words like community or family represent more than one individual; therefore, seem plural. However, collective nouns are always used as singular in a sentence.

Examples 

  • The audience is getting restless.
  • The class is full of good students.
  • The family is going to London.

 Note: When you discuss the members of a group in a sentence, it makes the noun plural. For example: 

  • The members of the team are working together to achieve success.

When to Use Are

Some tricky nouns use are even they don’t appear plural. See the following examples.

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

Few, some, many are examples of plural indefinite pronouns. Since they portray an unknown number of nouns, you should use are with them in a sentence.

Examples 

  • Many countries are engaged in the COVID-19 vaccine trial.
  • A few of us are going to the party.

 

Compound Subjects

When a sentence has two subjects linked by “and,” it is called a compound subject.

 Examples 

  • Emma and Lisa are going to Switzerland this summer.
  • Thunderstorms and rain are in the weather forecast for tomorrow.
  • Brainstorming and proofreading are two significant components of the writing process.

 “A Number” or “Pair of”

When you use the word “a number” or “a pair” before a noun, it makes subject-verb agreement complicated. However,  if the noun is a collective noun, use are in a sentence. It is because these phrases refer to the individuals in the group.

 Examples 

  • A number of people are against the president.
  • The pair are inseparable as they got engaged a few months back.
  • A large number of people are enclosed in a room.

Note: An exception to the above rule would be for terms like “a pair of scissors” or  “a pair of pants”. If the thing is considered a singular, it would use is.


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