## Why should "are" be used here instead of "is"?

26

3

The sentence given in our book is as follows,

More important than winning is developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills

We are supposed to find where the mistake is in the sentence... 4 options are given ( which I have made bold ) and one of them is correct ( meaning the mistake is there ).. As per the key given in our book, the correct answer is B option i.e. "is" and the key says that "are" should be used here... I am confused and can't understand why should "are" be used here? Anyone who can help me here, please?

9

Part of the confusion may be that this is a bit of a garden path sentence. At least for me, as I read it the first time, my brain was trying to group things as "the ability to (work with other and develop[...] leadership skills)." That is, I thought both "to work" and "develop" (which I'd misread, from "developing") went with "ability," making the sentence singular. It's actually "(the ability to work with others) and (developing leadership skills)," which are two nouns, hence plural.

– yshavit – 2017-07-31T20:25:34.063

3This sentence could be vastly improved by simplifying the predicate: "More important than winning is developing teamwork and leadership skills." (Note that in this version, since "developing...skills" is the predicate nominative, "is" would be correct.) – Kyle Strand – 2017-07-31T23:36:36.097

31

Option B is the correct answer, as your answer key says. The error is in the use of the singular form of the copula "is" with a plural subject.

The correct form of the copula is "are" because the sentence in the non-inverted form is:

Developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills are more important than winning.

This is a sentence with a compound subject. That means two subjects, so the plural is used.

Same pattern as:

Trees and bushes are important in gardens.

For clarification, here is the same sentence with the corrected word and with brackets added to contain each subject:

[I returned here to edit brace to brackets and cartouche to contain. I cannot believe I would have used the terms braces and cartouche here.

More important than winning are { developing the ability to work with others } and { developing leadership skills }

17+1 It might cement the point for OP and other learners if you followed the final example with its 'inverted' form: "Important in gardens are trees and bushes." – StoneyB on hiatus – 2017-07-30T22:20:45.203

12+1, though I must say, the version with "is" sounds pretty OK to me, too. "Xing and Ying" can often be taken as a single (but multifarious) action; we say "Hemming and hawing gets on my nerves", or "Hunting and gathering is very effective in small-scale societies", or . . . well, you get the idea. – ruakh – 2017-07-31T01:14:46.430

4Your first sentence should start "It is are because...", right? You seem to be arguing for "are", not "is". – amalloy – 2017-07-31T05:57:29.727

6Good answer but you could replace It is "is" because[...] by The mistake is "is" because[...]. I find it a bit confusing to read It is "is" when the correct writing of this sentence is with are – Tim – 2017-07-31T07:09:17.517

1as others have said, I find this answer extremely confusing. why "is"? the example uses "are" and then the explanation mentions "plural". So, should the original sentence use "is" or "are"? – Federico – 2017-07-31T07:41:51.140

1The mistake in the sentence, in my opinion, is that it was written in inverted order. The subject is too complex for that. Although "are" makes the verb and subject agree in number, the sentence sounds wrong. – David K – 2017-07-31T11:52:15.477

@Federico Actually, we are supposed to find the "error" in the given sentence... The error is in the word "is"... Instead of "is", "are" should be used at that place.. so, since "is" is incorrectly used in the sentence, the answer of the question would be "is" – Hassan Ashas – 2017-07-31T12:28:03.173

@Lambie, you wrote "it is is" did you mean "it is are"? – Melanie – 2017-07-31T15:26:52.553

@MelanieShebel it is "is" not "are". He mentioned the correct answer of the question that was asked... – Hassan Ashas – 2017-07-31T16:05:51.797

@Melanie Shebel Yes, I was going too fast. I should have said something lie: It should be *are* because. Note: I really do not like people editing my things to put in a yellow background. And especially since the "edit" didn't correct this. – Lambie – 2017-07-31T16:16:03.113

So @HassanAshas I think it's "are" based off the user's comment and the way he was describing "are" but the comments and post seem to conflict. – Melanie – 2017-07-31T18:06:14.453

Oh @TimF I had a REALLY tough time reading that! Perhaps it needs to be explicit rather than implicit. – Melanie – 2017-07-31T18:15:58.243

@Lambie Why not say explicitly: "Option B is the correct answer. The error is in the use of the singular verb is with a plural subject", or similar? This removes all ambiguity. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2017-07-31T18:23:05.837

3

It might be worth noting that not all compound subjects are plural.

– Pharap – 2017-07-31T19:01:42.037

1@BavyanYaldo The subject of the sentence is "Developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership". The verb is the copula "are". The comparative phrase "more important than winning" is the complement. Compare: "[Walking and talking] [are] [more important than sitting]." – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2017-08-01T00:48:21.960

Thank you. So because it is a phrase "comparative phrase" means it can't be considered as subject @P.E.Dant because wining here seems to me it is a subject. I mean the sentence has two subjects. Because it is a comparison [developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership] ( subject) {1} and {wining}(subject) {2} – Bavyan Yaldo – 2017-08-01T01:00:58.847

@BavyanYaldo "Winning" is not a subject. If "winning" is a subject, where is the verb that takes it as its subject? The subject of the sentence is "Developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership". That's it. That is the one and only subject of the sentence. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2017-08-01T01:08:32.760

There is a double subject: developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills *are* more important than winning. A compound subject. – Lambie – 2019-02-09T17:10:55.703

10

Invert the sentence and it should be apparent:

Developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills are more important than winning.

Keep this trick in mind for the future. It may be useful again.

That being said, this kind of ambiguity is a good indication that the sentence might be poorly written. Most native speakers would naturally say is by default, because the "A is more X than B" structure is frequently used to compare two equal things.

More important than winning the race is striving to always do your best.

More enjoyable than eating the food is learning to prepare it for yourself.

More important than winning is learning to work together, and also developing leadership skills.

Keep in mind that there may be ways to write these sentences with better style. Test questions like these are purposely designed to be difficult, while good writing is supposed to be easy to read.

1Using a poorly-structured or non-idiomatic sentence as part of a test seems like a bad way to make it more difficult. – eyeballfrog – 2017-08-01T00:55:27.560

@eyeballfrog That was the subtext of my comment, yes. :) – Andrew – 2017-08-02T14:47:08.277

7

The is version sounds better than it should because of the complexity of the following subjects. You are somewhat led to believe that the first developing wraps up the remainder of the sentence into a single subject.

The answer becomes more obvious if you simplify the two subjects, so say:

developing the ability to work with others => cooperating

More important than winning is cooperating and leading.

vs.

More important than winning are cooperating and leading.

1I still think that the correct answer would be "More important than winning is cooperating and leading", haha... but by inverting the sentence, yeah - the second sentence makes lot more sense. Thanks :) – Hassan Ashas – 2017-08-01T18:21:09.803

5

As a native English speaker I would say that the proposed sentence is 100% correct:

More important than winning is developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills

If you change "is" to "are" you sound pompous.

What you initially hear is:

More important than winning is developing the ability to work with others ...

Therefore "is" is correct.

It would be OK if you introduced early into the sentence that you were using a plural form, such as:

Useful skills for winning are developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills.

The use of the plural "skills" makes you expect the word "are" afterwards.

3

What if the original intent was that the combination of "ability to work with others and developing leadership skills" together were more important, but individually they were not? Then it should be IS - correct?

2

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2

If there is a perceived error in the sentence (that 'is' should be replaced by 'are') then there is also a second error which has been missed. The second error is the failure to indicate there are two things more important than winning. (As already mentioned the current sentence using 'is' would be naturally used by native English (UK) speakers.

original sentence

More important than winning is developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills

'Corrected sentence'

More important than winning are developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills

the plural in the sentence refers to the two subjects which are more important than winning; 'the ability to work with others' and 'developing leadership skills'.

It's extremely awkward to indicate the plural by the use of 'are' alone. And I can't see another way without completely rewriting the sentence. e.g.

The two things more important than winning are developing the ability to work with others and developing leadership skills.

The above is still awkward due to using the word 'developing' twice.

2"The ability to work with others" is a noun phrase. So is "leadership skills." Logically, why can't we develop both of them by "developing the ability to work with others and leadership skills"? This is a new noun phrase with singular number, so the grammatical error in the original sentence could be corrected by deleting the second "developing." This would leave the sentence stylistically incorrect (it causes confusion over exactly which phrases are combined by "and"), and I would not use that construction, but I'm not convinced that it is worse than the answer key's solution. – David K – 2017-07-31T12:03:41.540

I had thought about that, and if there was a way of omitting the second 'developing'. The order of the items might be important, try 'developing leadership skills and the ability to work with others'. I think one of the main points is that the original sentence not only contains errors, but that it is itself an extremely awkward way of making that statement. – charmer – 2017-07-31T12:15:47.517

"...awkward due to using..." is every bit as awkward as the cited instance! – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica – 2017-07-31T20:30:12.073

@P.E.Dant I'd disagree with you on that one - even re-reading it some time later, it still scans fine to me. – charmer – 2017-08-09T12:47:36.943