Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Subject-Verb Agreement (7).

Today: “more than one is;” *”more than one are.” The phrase “more than one” generally takes a singular verb, not a plural one {more than one was there} — even though the sense is undeniably plural. If the noun is supplied before the verb, the construction is necessarily singular {more than one woman was there}. But without the noun, the construction becomes a little trickier. H.W. Fowler insisted on the singular (Modern English Usage, 1st ed. at 363), and most professional writers use it — e.g.: “The variable for parental age represents the age of the oldest parent, if more than one is alive.” Kenneth A. Couch, “Time? Money? Both? The Allocation of Resources to Older Parents,” Demography, 1 May 1999, at 219. The only exception is a narrow one: it occurs in a more or less pedagogical context when the phrase denotes the plural form of a word, as opposed to the singular — e.g.: “Remember that one animal is an animal, but more than one are animaux, ending in aux.” Vince Passaro, “Unlikely Stories,” Harper’s Mag., 1 Aug. 1999, at 80. Apart from that one situation — or when the number given is greater than one {more than four golfers were in the group} — a plural verb should not follow. To say *”more than one are present” is unidiomatic at best — e.g.: “The charge is $40 for the first policy illustration and $30 after that, if more than one are [read ‘is’] analyzed at the same time.” William Giese, “Insurance You Can Do Without,” Kiplinger’s Personal Fin. Mag., 1 Feb. 1997, at 71. *Invariably inferior forms. Next: Plural Subject Intended to Denote Area or Statistic. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Long sentences are generally inconvenient, and no one will be apt to use them who has his thoughts in good order.” Adam Smith, Lectures of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres 20 (1963).
Scroll to Top