Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Subject-Verb Agreement (4).

Today: Compound Subjects Joined Conjunctively. If two or more subjects joined by “and” are different and separable, they take a plural verb — e.g.: o “At the same time, the democratic process and the personal participation of the citizen in his government is [read are] not all we want.” Charles P. Curtis Jr., Lions Under the Throne 49 (1947). (“The democratic process” and “personal participation” are different things.) o “Few golfers appreciate the time, money and technical know-how that goes [read ‘go’] into making a golf product.” John Steinbreder, “Perfection Takes Time for Clubs, Balls,” Golfweek, 25 Jan. 2003, at 36. (“Time,” “money,” and “know-how” are different things.) But sometimes the two subjects joined by “and” express a single idea, and hence should take a singular verb {their confusion and uncertainty is understandable}. This is the case with “spaghetti and meatballs,” which denotes a single dish and therefore takes a singular verb; e.g.: “The spaghetti and meatballs is great comfort food.” Michael Bauer, “A Full Plate,” S.F. Chron., 24 Aug. 1997, at 42. Some writers don’t recognize this: “Spaghetti and meatballs are [read ‘is’] on the menu.” David Polochanin, “Prime Time Today,” Providence J.-Bull., 23 Jan. 1997, at C1. Next: Misleading Connectives. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Metaphor is a verbal cartoon. Hence, it must be grasped, not analyzed.” Thomas Szasz, The Untamed Tongue 56 (1990).
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