Which of the following two sentences is correct?

  1. The teacher, and not the students, is speaking.
  2. The teacher, and not the students, are speaking.
  • 2
    The problem with this coordination is that the two coordinates are not structurally alike, or parallel. Each example has a singular NP for one coordinate and a negative plural for the other. You'll have to recast it as something like: "The teacher is speaking, but the students are not".
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:16
  • The first sentence is correct. There is no compound subject [teacher and students]. A singular subject takes a singular verb. Who is speaking? Teacher. How many of "who is speaking" is speaking? One person. The verb phrase is “is speaking” is an action verb. Are the students performing or participating in the action of speaking? No. Only the teacher is performing the action. || Your second sentence uses the wrong helping verb in the verb phrase “are” which is plural. The only way for it to be right: The teacher and the students are speaking. Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


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Both sentences are wrong, but option 1 is less wrong.

Option 2 is totally wrong. A clause surrounded by commas is optional; the sentence must stand on its own without it. Option 2 cannot be correct because "the teacher are speaking" makes no sense.

Option 1 isn't great either. A clause surrounded by commas is used to add a side note that helps, but is not needed by, the rest of the sentence. "and not the students" does not qualify the teacher (who is obviously not the students) or speaking (because subjects own verbs, not the other way around). What you have is not one qualified thought, but two separate thoughts.

A better option is "The teacher is speaking; the students are not."


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