Is "bananas is" possible by any chance?

19

3

My brother is a highschooler. His mid-term English-language exam is early next month. His teacher gave him an assignment in preperation for the exam. One of the questions given is:

(Bears - bananas - broccoli) is sweet fruit.

I called the teacher telling him that none of the choices make a correct sentence: Broccoli is a vegetable, bears are animals, and bananas should be "banana" to be in agreement with the singular verb is. However, he keeps arguing bananas is the correct choice.

Edit

His argument is that "bananas" refers to the substance that makes up the fruit, rather than the units, pretty much as chicken refers to the substance, or flesh, in " I like chicken" - not chickens. So he says bananas is equal to chicken in this example.

Sara

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 3 714

54He is bananas... – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2017-12-22T20:52:14.913

4Ask him to explain his choice, and add that to your question. – user3169 – 2017-12-22T21:05:37.097

1It's a poorly worded question. I suggest just moving on and choosing bananas, it's the only fruit in the set. This isn't even the actual test, just prep. If anyone asked the teacher about the grammatical inconsistency of the question, it should have been your brother. He's in high school. – None – 2017-12-22T22:14:51.260

10I would never utter "X is sweet fruit" in any context. I would say "Bananas are a sweet fruit" or "Strawberries are a sweet fruit," maybe even "An apple is a sweet fruit," but the lack of an article there, seems to me, completely ungrammatical, and the usage of "Bananas" as a noun referring to the substance of banana is similarly completely wrong. – Tyg13 – 2017-12-23T03:58:47.440

2@abbie, given that he's an english language learner, I would find it not unusual to be unsure of questioning the grammatical consistency of a sentence posed by his English teacher. One would expect the expert teaching at the high school level (which may be advanced, may not be, depends on the quality of education) to be able to form a grammatical English sentence. – Tyg13 – 2017-12-23T04:02:20.257

@Tyg13, thank you! Plus, my brother already disputed the question, but as you said the teacher is the "expert" and everyone is expected to submit to him. – Sara – 2017-12-23T07:21:27.373

9

At this point I think this question is really an interpersonal problem. Most HS teachers are willing to realize and accept when they make trivial mistakes. An appropriate response would have been something like “Oops. Let me fix that.” Since he boldly refused that, you should immediately drop focus on the bananas question and instead begin wondering what other egregious errors he is making in class. Perhaps you and he should have a visit with the principal or the school board about meeting state and federal educational requirements in his class?

– Dúthomhas – 2017-12-23T07:44:31.323

4You could of course say something like "A basket of bananas is...", but that's not the question. – NotThatGuy – 2017-12-23T09:29:51.483

1@Dúthomhas, this is probably what I should do, although I believe that the teacher is just incompetent and doesn't really know he is wrong. After all, it's Egypt and we don't have quality education, so the likes of him infest our schools. – Sara – 2017-12-23T09:49:19.560

2@Tyg13 I don't think Sara is asking us to prove her teacher wrong -- she already knows he is wrong. Rather she wants to know if there is any case where the teacher might be correct. The answer is "no, the sentence is not grammatical in any context", but it's hard to definitively say that when you're learning a language. After all there's very little we can do to fix schools, or teach those who won't be taught, but at least we can keep the disinformation from spreading. But this is probably a better topic for /meta – Andrew – 2017-12-23T15:33:25.260

Yet another "the teacher is wrong" comment. – RonJohn – 2017-12-23T16:06:59.420

2It is a good lesson, to learn to gracefully deal with people above you who are wrong. It is much more practically valuable to most of us than most of the stuff most of us learn in school. Because it is gonna happen over and over and you will be punished for the wrong response also as an adult no matter how right you know you are. – mathreadler – 2017-12-23T16:19:40.813

1@Andrew, "She wants to know if there's any case where the teacher might be correct." - That's what I failed to include in my question, and it is 100% correct. Your answer below as well as your comment "no, the sentence is not grammatical in any context." leaves no more doubts and gives me solid ground as I intend to further complain against the teacher to the school management. Some action should be taken against him because he was even disrespectful to me when I called him and brought this to his attention. – Sara – 2017-12-23T23:19:35.677

@Sara This of course is your decision. However, if I may give an alternate perspective: High school courses are an introduction to a subject, to lay a good foundation. At higher levels you will learn the many details that bring proficiency. Sometimes the most important thing is to pass the class and move on. If you really want to learn a language, learn from native speakers, watch media in that language, and converse in that language as much as possible (even if you make mistakes). One bad teacher really won't hinder you too much, if you are dedicated. – Andrew – 2017-12-23T23:53:10.387

@Andrew, it's not personal. It's not about learning English per se, either. My concern is that the guy might have been otherwise teaching the kids wrong English, which will not be conducive to them passing the mid-term exam. In Egypt, admission into a particular university college is soley determined by your high school graduation score. Some colleges require high scores, others don't. So if you take away one or two points from the English language score, the kid may fail to join his dream college. I personally failed to join a medical school just because my score was only two points short. – Sara – 2017-12-24T00:36:54.023

@Sara Understood, although this conversation should probably be moved to /meta – Andrew – 2017-12-24T00:40:57.123

Question: "Which of these is yellow? Bananas, Grapes, Strawberries." "Bananas is the correct answer." – Loren Pechtel – 2017-12-24T20:45:48.597

1You could make this correct by having a pineapple, which you have given the name "Bananas." Now when you say "Bananas is a sweet fruit" you are technically correct. – barbecue – 2017-12-24T23:13:18.023

@barbecue, I admit your comment has cracked me up. I could read it every day and still laugh. :) – Sara – 2017-12-25T03:48:25.847

"Bananas" is a 7-letter word. – Vi. – 2017-12-25T15:54:02.887

Answers

24

His argument is that "bananas" refers to the substance that makes up the fruit, rather than the units, pretty much as chicken refers to the substance, or flesh, in "I like chicken" - not chickens. So he says bananas is equal to chicken in this example.

I want to debunk his argument. He agrees that we'd say, "I like chicken" (not chickens) – but that is the singular form of the word. So I wonder why he thinks we'd switch to the plural, and say the very ungrammatical, "Bananas is sweet fruit." He is dishing out bad guidance here.

I agree with Andrew; these are correct ways to say this:

  • Bananas are a sweet fruit.

  • A banana is a sweet fruit.

This one is also valid:

  • The banana is a sweet fruit.

(Here, the definite article the indicates we are referring to all bananas, not one particular banana.)

One could even say:

  • Bananas are sweet fruits.
  • Banana is sweet fruit.

I think both of those are less common, but they are both grammatical.

But the one he is using:

  • Bananas is sweet fruit.

should be avoided in all cases.

Going back to his chicken argument, I can say either one of these:

  • Chicken is healthy meat.
  • Banana is sweet fruit.

But I would not say, "Chickens is healthy meat," nor would I say, "Bananas is sweet fruit."

J.R.

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 108 123

Sorry, J.R., but I really do not buy: Bananas are sweet fruits. The sweet fruits of success, yes. Bananas are sweet fruit. The fruit on the table is over ripe. That's plural meaning. – Lambie – 2017-12-23T13:42:32.060

3

@Lambie - A tad unusual perhaps, but not ungrammatical. Apples are sweet fruits given their sugar content, but are more friendly with a glycemic index of 38. Because pineapples are sweet fruits, it is best to eat them in their natural form rather than as juice. Naseberries are sweet fruits about the size of a tangerine with a rough tan skin.

– J.R. – 2017-12-23T21:38:23.070

2

(cont.) Plums are sweet juicy fruits that have high nutritional value. Cherries are sweet fruits and many people eat them between main meals. Pawpaws are sweet fruits with a custard texture and tropical flavor. Plums are small fruits that may be sweet or tart.

– J.R. – 2017-12-23T21:38:51.020

I never put an s on fruit in everyday parlance. There's no point in going on and on about it. It's not "said" except in things like "the fruits of one's labor". You can quote anything you wish, I know how people actually speak. All those quotes are therefore pointless in my view. X[plural] are a sweet fruit, no s. Salmon are a wild fish. Deer run rampant in my garden. – Lambie – 2017-12-24T00:36:08.787

8@Lambie - I don't disagree with you. It's uncommon. But there's no sense acting like it's "wrong" just because it's rare. I put the word "even" in my answer to show that two of these are a bit of a stretch – yet they still ring more correct than Bananas is sweet fruit, at least in my ear. Note that the OP hasn't asked, "Is this common parlance?" but, "Is this possible by any chance?" – J.R. – 2017-12-24T01:23:24.600

I believe that for ELLers, as I once was in two other languages, the possibilities should be put in a hierarchy. Of course, the teacher made a mistake, which you explained. For me, the s is really an odd-man out, so to speak. And the substance is singular. If you are going to go into fruits with an s, then, more guidance is needed. And the text you quoted in length is not a good example. – Lambie – 2017-12-24T14:29:25.587

You explained the teacher's mistake. But the text you quoted in extenso is a very bad example. That text is SEO (Search engine optimization) writing and therefore not representative. I try to put English points in a hierarchy to ELLers, and fruit with an s would be at the very bottom of the list. I would say "and it can be seen in certain expressions" and not give it equal footing with the singular. It does not have equal footing. Someone here is determined to disagree with me. So be it. I guess he or she is not an editor. – Lambie – 2017-12-24T14:34:51.607

1@Lambie - Just so you know, I visited every hit I quoted here, and only cited examples that I felt came from well-written sources. Again, I agree with you: it is, as you say, an “odd man out” wording”. As I cautioned in my answer, it is "less common, but [still] grammatical." – J.R. – 2017-12-24T22:12:18.323

@Lambie, what is an old-man out? – Sara – 2017-12-25T03:40:52.890

1

@Sara - “odd-man out” (not “old-man out”) is an idiom referring to something that doesn’t fit well with the things around it (see Definition #2 here). In this case, Lambie and I both agree that “fruits” is an uncommon, specialized usage that, while you may see it from time-to-time, it’s relatively rare and probably best avoided, since “fruit” is the more normal way to say it.

– J.R. – 2017-12-25T13:05:58.133

33

If you use "banana" as a measured recipe ingredient, it's an uncountable, singular noun:

Banana can be used as a substitute for egg, as it binds the ingredients together.

The recipe says to add a cup of banana to the cake mix.

Usually the recipe will call for a certain number of bananas (rather than an amount) since once you peel a banana you need to use it, and it's much easier to measure individual bananas than portions of banana:

This cake recipe says we need three bananas. Are there any in the pantry?

It's pretty much the same for all fruit: apple/apples, peach/peaches, and so on.

That being said, it's not natural to say, "Banana is a sweet fruit". You could say either:

Bananas are (a) sweet fruit.

or

A/The banana is a sweet fruit.

Btw, I think the teacher meant to write "pears" instead of "bears", which are otherwise not normally confused with one another.

(Edit) Apparently I misunderstood, and it's a "which of these three is correct" type of question. So the question could have been better phrased, "Which of the following is a sweet fruit: bears, broccoli, or bananas?"

Andrew

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 85 521

8You could also say "Bananas are a sweet fruit" – Greenonline – 2017-12-22T21:37:28.600

2I prefer the earlier "bananas are sweet fruit". – Weather Vane – 2017-12-22T21:52:46.820

11Lots of bears out there sighing with relief. – user242899 – 2017-12-22T23:16:31.780

8All this is true but the question as asked by the teacher is an English mistake. – Lambie – 2017-12-22T23:40:57.997

@Lambie - Amen! I think this answer explains that pretty well. – J.R. – 2017-12-23T01:28:38.143

5@Andrew I don't believe they meant "pears" instead of "bears". Since pear(s) (is/are) (a) sweet fruit(s) too, then two answers would be correct! – Mr Lister – 2017-12-23T14:19:18.023

@MrLister Aha. I misunderstood the question. – Andrew – 2017-12-23T15:18:54.837

3You can also say "The banana is a sweet fruit." – msh210 – 2017-12-23T20:35:54.410

I don't think "banana is a sweet fruit" is unnatural. Eg both of these seem grammatical, "This recipe calls for a cup of bear." "Bear is a sweet fruit." – Jay – 2017-12-24T03:38:58.917

8

It is possible, though slightly torturous, to come up with a scenario where this works. For example, if you create a dessert dish of semi-smashed banana chunks, maybe cooked a little, you might refer to this dish as "bananas." Akin to calling a bowl of sliced cling peaches "peaches."

If you eat this as part of a meal, you might say "bananas is sweet fruit, but mashed potatoes is savory starch." You're no longer referring to discrete countable banana items, but the count-less substance in the bowl.

For an English-language learner? No, definitely it should be "bananas are sweet fruit" or "bananas are sweet fruits," or "banana is a sweet fruit." For the "substance" situation that the teacher discussed, I think most native speakers would say "banana is sweet fruit."

You could also say "you calling me bananas is nuts." =)

Ken Williams

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 181

1You might say "Sand or pebbles is suitable for filling a hole." Why not bananas? – Keith McClary – 2017-12-23T05:58:03.397

9@KeithMcClary "pebbles" is not singular. It should be *"pebbles are suitable for filling a hole"*. Similarly, there's no reason why you can't use bananas (plural countable), *"Bananas are not suitable for filling a hole"*. – Andrew – 2017-12-23T06:13:49.120

I would not say to an ELL: Bananas are sweet fruit*s*. Fruit is plural in modern English. – Lambie – 2017-12-23T13:43:40.063

2

To my ear, the most natural sentence is "The banana is a sweet fruit." "Bananas are sweet fruits," doesn't make sense, though, as there is only one type of commonly eaten banana. "Apples are sweet fruits..." is reasonable because there are several varieties of apples. This is similar to plural "fish" and plural "fishes."

Having said that, I wouldn't think twice if someone said, "Bananas are sweet fruits." But, if an native-speaking friend said, "Bananas is sweet fruit," I would poke fun at them.

Rubellite Fae

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 121

2There are many varieties of bananas, but one doesn't see them in US supermarkets. – Lambie – 2017-12-25T16:12:33.080

@Lambie Yes. Thus, I said, "one type of commonly eaten banana." I try to be precise to avoid these sorts of comments. – Rubellite Fae – 2018-01-01T03:52:38.993

2

"A truckload of bananas is very heavy."

So, yes it is possible, if you make the word bananas part of an adjective phrase of a singular noun.

Frieda June

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 39

6Although to be clear, the verb "is" agrees with the subject "truckload" and "of bananas" is just a prepositional phrase. The juxtaposition of "bananas" with "is", is otherwise meaningless. – Andrew – 2017-12-24T00:36:31.600

2

If the teacher really wants to refer to the food substance then the correct term is "banana" not "bananas", as already noted in an earlier answer:

https://ell.stackexchange.com/a/151176/56627

Example of use -- this nutritional article does not follow a uniform style in using 'banana/bananas' but these extracts represent correct usage when referring to the food substance:

Compared to apple, banana has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrates (...) Banana is rich in vitamins B6 and B12

Source: Health Benefits of Bananas


If "bananas" is being used as a generic name for a type of fruit, then it is an English convention of usage that when plural words like"apples", "oranges" or "bananas" are used as a generic name, the word is followed by the plural form of a verb; so the plural "are" is typically used rather than the singular "is":

Apples are nutritious.

Oranges are rich in vitamin C.

Bananas contain (not contains) calcium and vitamins.

Bananas are nutritious.

If you are particular to combine 'banana' with 'sweet fruit' then typical constructions would be

The banana is a sweet fruit.

Bananas are sweet fruits.

Note that both 'the banana' and 'bananas' are used as generic names here.

More complicated for learners:

Bananas are a sweet fruit.

Bananas are sweet fruit.

Here "fruit" is used as plural instead of "fruits", or to describe "a type of fruit", and "bananas" is also used as a generic name for a type of fruit, so we are really saying either that bananas are sweet fruits, or that bananas are a type of sweet fruit. This usage appears to be more common in the USA. See this comment posted 2 days ago, and this relevant answer on English.SE: https://english.stackexchange.com/a/403172/231519

You don't see "bananas is" used anywhere in this context. It is not grammatical to say "bananas is sweet fruit" or "bananas is a (type of) sweet fruit." So the teacher is mistaken here. Unfortunately he might have learned his English by rules rather than practice, and like many another English Language Learner, got confused by a notoriously tricky language!


However you cannot argue so easily with a teacher in Asia or the Middle East. See my closely related question, and another member's question about your exact situation, at Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange, for some interpersonal solutions:

How can I get more co-operation from a teacher who discourages a student from asking questions to clear his confusion?

How to politely correct a teacher?


Sad but true: "bananas" when used as idiom has some other meanings that the teacher probably wouldn't like to hear...

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/74581/why-does-bananas-mean-crazy


Considering your titular question here:

Is "bananas is" possible by any chance?

If the question does not restrict answers to the "sweet fruit" part then it is very possible to write "bananas is" in a simple sentence as in

bananas is the go-to food for athletes to quickly regain energy and potassium during tiring games.

Here "bananas" is a food choice and linked with "the go-to food": therefore we use the singular form "is".

Also, if the use of "bananas" is not restricted to a generic name for a type of fruit:

three bananas is a substantial breakfast.

Here "three bananas" describes a food unit and can therefore be taken as a single entity, so 'is' sounds better than 'are', especially when linked to "a substantial breakfast" (the construction "three bananas are a substantial breakfast" might be technically correct but doesn't sound so right to my ear. I am curious to know what native speakers feel about the natural choice of is/are here.)

English Student

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 1 116

You always blow me away with your thorough, beautiful answers. You're the best English Student I've ever seen. – Sara – 2017-12-27T06:02:26.603

1Thanks @Sara! I love English and am glad to learn interesting things while researching these answers. Also glad to help you and other users who want to learn more by asking questions here on ELL! – English Student – 2017-12-27T13:40:33.887

1

Just want to point out that while others are correct in saying that "banana is sweet fruit" would be grammatically correct, it sounds rather strange.

I think that the average American native speaker will think that you are trying to sound Shakespearean (e.g., "parting is such sweet sorrow") and therefore sophisticated, or that you're trying to speak in some kind of dialect.

earksiinni

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 249

1

I suspect that the question is about the definition of the term and not the grammar of the sentence. The problem with the question is the implication that it is about grammar.

For example, restructuring the question to "Which is a sweet fruit?" you would list the plural forms of the words, as listed in the question. It would sound wrong to say: "Which is a sweet fruit: bear, brocolli, banana".

His point about chicken fits with this as well. You would list "chicken" referring to the meat and not "chickens" referring to the animal.

Dave Cousineau

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 131

1I could buy this if the question was worded the way you word it here in your answer. But it wasn't, and that's a problem. It's a good thought, though. – J.R. – 2017-12-24T10:19:19.407

@J.R. The point is that I think this is how the instructor sees it, and without knowing this it may be impossible to argue with him about it. He is looking at it as a choice from a list of definitions, and not a word that makes the sentence grammatical. The question needs to be improved, but not necessarily by changing bananas to banana. – Dave Cousineau – 2017-12-24T17:10:02.773

1

"The bananas is..." would instantly mean that "the Bananas" is a hotel, island, band, cocktail, hill and similar. The reason is that banana has a completely regular singular form so to any ear it is so much of a distraction that the only possible logical resolution is given above. (Another possible verbal resolution would be that you meant "the banana's [omitted] is...")

There is no grammatical difference between "bananas" and "tables" or "books". "Books is bad", "the books is bad" !? very much nonsense.

So what is the conundrum and how could it be that your teacher is right?

The question comes from: "Which item is sweet fruit?" which you can freely reply as Minions would with "Bananas!"

"Who broke the window?" "They did it."

Since they wanted to save space, you have had this confusion.

alex.peter

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 111

1

This may be a more niche usage, but if Bananas is in quotes, you can use it, plural or not plural. Here is an example:

"Bananas" is a noun.

adrian

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 111

1

It could be used in a comparative sentence. For example: Bananas is to blueberries as cherries is to crab apples.

In this example, is the comparison between quantity, beginning letter of each word pair, or that they are all fruit?

Yaacov Deane

Posted 2017-12-22T20:42:53.183

Reputation: 178