Grammar: Was or Were?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 30, 2014 6:48 PM GMT
    Why does "was" sound better in these sample sentences? Or at least in the second example. Which is correct?

    1.
    What he lacked was test subjects.
    What he lacked were test subjects.

    2.
    Fifty participants was a very good start.
    Fifty participants were a very good start.
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    Mar 30, 2014 6:58 PM GMT
    In sentence 1, was refers back to the singular subject "he." "He was"
    In the second sentence, "participants" is plural. "Participants were"

  • SuntoryTime

    Posts: 656

    Mar 30, 2014 7:03 PM GMT
    I usually get who and that mixed up.
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    Mar 30, 2014 7:09 PM GMT
    Anomalous1 saidIn sentence 1, was refers back to the singular subject "he." "He was"
    In the second sentence, "participants" is plural. "Participants were"



    But can't it also be this?

    1. Test subjects were what he lacked.

    2. A very good start was fifty participants.
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    Mar 30, 2014 7:10 PM GMT
    This sort of thing literally makes my head explode
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    Mar 30, 2014 7:12 PM GMT
    woodsmen saidHere is the answers. In the first sentence, turn the sentence around to get the answer: The test subjects WERE what he lacked. In the second sentence, the plural form should be used.


    But you wouldn't say for #2,

    A million dollars were a very good start.
    A million dollars was a very good start sounds better.

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  • creature

    Posts: 5197

    Mar 30, 2014 7:16 PM GMT
    Edited. never mind.
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    Mar 30, 2014 7:47 PM GMT
    wrestlervic saidWhy does "was" sound better in these sample sentences? Or at least in the second example. Which is correct?

    1.
    What he lacked was test subjects.
    What he lacked were test subjects.

    2.
    Fifty participants was a very good start.
    Fifty participants were a very good start.

    If the schools did sentence diagrams you'd be able to more easily understand.

    1. Your sentence refers to the plural subjects so you use the plural of were. He is a pronoun describing the verb lacked.

    2. Fifty participants is a singular reference to the group no individual 'participants' therefore the singular use of was is used to identify the start. If you were referring to all the participants then you use were. IE: Fifty participants were very young.
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    Mar 30, 2014 7:48 PM GMT
    It's the "a good start" that makes me think "was" sounds better, as if "a good start" is its own slangish entity, sorta.

    Well, I'll be, fifty participants is a very good start!
    Well, I'll be, fifty participants was a very good start! (past)

    You wouldn't say:

    "Well, I'll be, fifty participants were a very good start!"
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    Mar 30, 2014 7:53 PM GMT
    eb925guy said
    wrestlervic saidWhy does "was" sound better in these sample sentences? Or at least in the second example. Which is correct?

    1.
    What he lacked was test subjects.
    What he lacked were test subjects.

    2.
    Fifty participants was a very good start.
    Fifty participants were a very good start.

    If the schools did sentence diagrams you'd be able to more easily understand.

    1. Your sentence refers to the plural subjects so you use the plural of were. He is a pronoun describing the verb lacked.

    2. Fifty participants is a singular reference to the group no individual 'participants' therefore the singular use of was is used to identify the start. If you were referring to all the participants then you use were. IE: Fifty participants were very young.


    This sounds like what my mind was trying to tell me. So I'm going with--

    1. were
    2. was
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    Mar 30, 2014 8:08 PM GMT
    Ohno saidThis sort of thing literally makes my head explode

    My head literally went around when I read that.
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    Mar 30, 2014 8:13 PM GMT
    There are people giving grammar lessons on Realjock? Well, that's dissapointing icon_neutral.gif
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    Mar 30, 2014 8:14 PM GMT
    Xavier92 saidThere are people giving grammar lessons on Realjock? Well, that's dissapointing icon_neutral.gif

    Right. Let's start with spelling lessons.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 30, 2014 8:16 PM GMT
    Until the expert, Sharky, turns up, I'm going for were and were.
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    Mar 30, 2014 8:27 PM GMT
    wrestlervic said
    Anomalous1 saidIn sentence 1, was refers back to the singular subject "he." "He was"
    In the second sentence, "participants" is plural. "Participants were"



    But can't it also be this?

    1. Test subjects were what he lacked.

    2. A very good start was fifty participants.


    I stand corrected.