The detective, Joe, tells the girl that the scene was covered with clues. The girl can't spot any and thinks, What clues [was/were] Joe talking about?

Which is right, "was" or "were"? I've thought "were" since "clues" is plural; but, spellcheck marks it as an error.

  • 1
    The subject of the verb to talk here is "Joe," not "clues." The correct form of the verb is was, not were. It may be easier to understand if you parse it as a declarative: Joe was talking about what clues. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 9 '16 at 2:32

Was refers to Joe, not clues. Turn the question into a statement and it gets clearer.

Joe was talking about clues. What clues was Joe talking about?

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