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Is it grammatical to say

Whichever ones you choose does not matter

or do I have to say

whichever ones you choose do not matter?

Because "it doesn't matter whichever one you choose" is legitimate, I was curious as to the grammaticality of its un-extraposed counterpart.

Also, is it grammatical to say

Which ones you choose do not matter?

If not, please explain the reason as to why it is not grammatical.

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+50
  1. Whichever ones you choose does not matter.

  2. Which ones you choose does not matter

Sentence (1) is perhaps ambiguous. I think the Original Poster wants whichever ones you choose to be understood as an interrogative clause. In this case the sentence means something like:

  • The answer to the question Which ones are you going to choose? is not important.

If this is what the Original Poster wants to say then we do not need the -ever suffix here. Sentence (2) is a much better sentence than sentence (1).

Notice that the whole interrogative clause which ones you choose is the Subject of the sentence. The noun phrase which ones is the Direct Object of the verb choose within the clause which ones you choose. It is not the Subject of the verb does. Because the whole interrogative clause is the Subject of the larger sentence the verb takes third person singular agreement:

  • [Which ones you choose] does not matter.

You can compare this with a simpler sentence:

  • [What she said] does not matter.

Notice that we cannot use plural verb agreement if the Subject of the sentence is a clause:

  • *[What she said] do not matter. (ungrammatical)

Extra note 1:

It might be useful to know that native speakers do not like to use clauses as the Subjects of sentences. We find these types of sentences difficult to process. We often avoid this by using a dummy pronoun, the word it, as the Subject of the sentence and moving the clause to the end of the sentence where it will function as a Complement of the verb. If we do this with the Original Poster's sentence, we get:

  • It does not matter [which ones you choose].

Extra note 2:

This sentence looks very similar to a conditional sentence:

  • Whichever ones you choose, it does not matter.

This sentence has a very different structure to the one in the Original Poster's example. Here the Subject of the main clause is the pronoun it. The interrogative clause whichever ones you choose is functioning as an Adjunct in the sentence. It tells us the set of situations in which it does not matter. This type of sentence is called an exhaustive conditional. In exhaustive conditionals like this one, we definitely do need to add the suffix -ever to the interrogative word:

  • *Which ones you choose, it does not matter. (ungrammatical)

Extra note 3:

It is possible—but unlikely—that in sentence (1) the phrase whichever ones you choose is a noun phrase. With this reading, this noun phrase is a special type of construction called a fused relative construction (or a free relative). If we read the sentence like this, it means:

  • Those things that you choose do not matter.

In this sentence the phrase whichever ones you choose is a plural noun phrase headed by the plural noun ones. So the larger sentence now has a plural Subject and the verb do must take plural agreement:

  1. [Whichever ones you choose] do not matter.

Because it is in a fused relative clause construction, we have to put the suffix -ever on the relative word. With this intended meaning the following sentence is ungrammatical:

  • *Which ones you choose do not matter. (ungrammatical)
3

It is not idiomatic to use the plural form of one in the expression: whichever ones.
The idiomatic expression is

Whichever one you choose

which is equivalent to

You can pick/select any that you want.

Google Ngram backs this up with the following chart, the expression whichever one (blue line) is by far the most common,

enter image description here

and the same results are repeated in the British English and American English corpora.

Examples taken from Google Books

  • If you decide to only keep one, you'll have to decide which one to keep. Do you keep hers or his? Whichever one you choose, you'll obviously have to provide your financial planner with an update of your new marital status, your new income, ...

  • He replied, “Whichever one you wish."

  • The point is that whichever one you choose is the right one. There isn't a best one.

  • Well, whichever one you want. Did your old missies dress you every morning? Lord, Lettie! Whichever one you want – pink or blue: you decide.

  • Go in and take whichever one you please.

  • 'Just pick whichever one you like, apart from the big one. They'll bring you luck. And I've got a spare dreamcatcher.' 'Awww, thank you, Mum. I wouldn't want my dreams ... roaming around the flat. It's good to trap them, in a window.

The second clause in the OP's example omits the subject pronoun

does not matter

The appropriate pronoun which agrees with the negative auxiliary verb does not is it

Whichever one you choose, it doesn't matter.

To whom it matters is not specified. The speaker could be implying any one of the following

Whichever one you choose, [it] doesn't matter (to me/him/her/us/them)

Whichever one you choose, [it] doesn't matter (to anyone but you.)

If the plural pronoun, ones, is used in the first clause, the pronoun in the following clause should be plural because the ‘things’ being chosen is more than one.

Whichever ones you choose, [they] don't matter.

However, it doesn't rule out the possibility of there being a different subject in the second clause. In which case, a pronoun MUST be used in order to clarify.

Whichever ones you choose, it doesn't matter (to me/him/her/us/them).

0

"whichever one|ones you choose" there is understood to be the semantic equivalent of "your choice", whether you're choosing one item or several, and thus the verb will be singular.

{Your choice} doesn't matter.

Whichever ones you choose doesn't matter. We have all colors in stock.

P.S. I don't disagree with snailplane's view that it's a rather clumsy sentence, but it's a clumsiness many native speakers share.

  • So just "which ones you choose doesn't matter" is not grammatical? – whitedevil Nov 2 '16 at 23:36
  • "Grammatical" in the purest sense means "that's how most native speakers of the language talk". So it's a fuzzy term. There are situations where quite a large number of speakers, though certainly not the majority, will say something in a certain way, as we have here, and for these situations we use the term "marginal". I would call that sentence "marginally grammatical". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 3 '16 at 11:54
-1

It's very simple:

"Whichever" is always "singular".

"Whichever" means ‘any one at all’ or ‘it doesn’t matter which’.

http://www.e4thai.com/e4e/images/pdf/collins_cobuild_english_grammar_collins_digital_edition.pdf speaks only of singular whoever, wherever, however, whatever, or whichever.

Here is another good discussion: http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/whomever.1433232/

In any case all references tell us that whoever, wherever, however, whatever, or whichever are "singular" so in your case the first sentence is correct while the second one is not:

  • Whichever ones you choose doesn't matter. (Several things or people that/whom you choose)

  • Whichever one you choose doesn't matter. (One thing or person that/whom you choose)

Let me explain why:

Whichever ones is a 'set/amount/group/array' and is 'singular' and whichever one is 'one thing' ans is also 'singular'. With singular we use 'it' so it's 'it does not matter'.

Explanation:

  • It doesn't matter whichever book you take. (One book)

  • It doesn't matter whichever books you take. (An amount of books; two or more)

Another example of 'plural':

  • Whichever of the three questions did you like most? Whichever one did you like most? (Only one question)

  • Whichever two of the three questions did you like most? - Whichever ones did you like most? (Any two questions out of the three)

With living creatures:

  • Does it matter whichever one is going there first? - (One person)

  • Does it matter whichever ones are going there first? - (A group of two or more people)

Notice! It is "Does" not "do" because here we don't mean 'How many people?' instead we mean 'A group consisting of how many people?'

  • Hmm ... "You can have whichever books takes your fancy" "Whichever people has already finshed ....". <-- They both seem ungrammatical. The word whichever doesn't seem to be particularly singular to me. – Araucaria Nov 3 '16 at 14:18
  • You are refering to 'books' and 'people' here. Books are, people are, but whichever is. It is still singular. – SovereignSun Nov 3 '16 at 18:21
  • No, I'm afraid you've accidentally made that up. It is not true!!! See here for 5,000 reasons that that's not true. However, as you noted "people are" and "books are". As it happens "ones are" too. And it is "ones" that we see in OP's example. However, "ones" is not the subject of the verb does. Neither is "whichever ones". If it was then the verb would take plural agreement. ... – Araucaria Nov 3 '16 at 18:28
  • ... The reason it does not is because the subject is a clause. Clauses nearly always take singular verb agreement. That's why the verb's singular. Whichever can be both singular or plural when it occurs in fused determiner head constructions. – Araucaria Nov 3 '16 at 18:29
  • Actually it's much simpler: Does refers to 'it' and not to whichever. – SovereignSun Nov 3 '16 at 19:15
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[Whichever ones you choose] don't matter.

This sentence is fine as it is. But as commenters have said, it might not be the best sentence available. @snailplane♦ already suggested a better alternative.

The word - whichever - is a determinative. So when it precedes the head in a Noun Phrase structure, it's grammatically correct.

The part - whichever ones you choose - is a free choice relative construction.

Note that which can't occur in a free choice relative construction. Therefore, the following sentence is wrong -

* Which ones you choose don't matter. [INCORRECT]

However, which can occur in an embedded interrogative clause.

I don't know [which one you chose].

  • Thank you! But I don't get what you mean by this; which one you choose in which one you choose doesn't matter can be viewed as an ordinary embedded interrogative clause as well. In that respect, this sentence is fine. – whitedevil Oct 30 '16 at 22:00
  • 1
    I have the same problem with "whichever ones [that] you choose don't matter" as I do with "macaroni and cheese are a decent lunch". Yes, those subjects have plural forms, but I prefer a verb that agrees with their singular semantics. – Gary Botnovcan Nov 3 '16 at 15:22
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    @GaryBotnovcan I think that's because MFI is reading it as a fused relative clause. However, you and I are more likely to read it as an interrogative clause, which is why we would expect singular verb agreement here. – Araucaria Nov 3 '16 at 15:25

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