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Should I use happen or happens in the following sentence:

Everything in life, even events that seem insignificant when they occur, happens/happen for a reason.

I am confused because everything is singular, but events is plural.

  • Everything takes a singular verb. Remove the parenthetical insertion "even events..." and you need happens. You could remove any apparent ambiguity by keeping it all singular: "Everything in life, even an event that seems insignificant when it occurs, happens for a reason." – Andrew Leach Dec 14 '16 at 15:23
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'Events' is just an additional information, just like in the following sentence,

"He, along with his friends, is coming to the party"

'along with his friends' is an additional information and verb is used according to the first word. Similarly, 'even events...' is an additional information and hence verb will be used according to 'everything' therefore, 'happens' will be the correct option.

Everything in life, even events that seem insignificant when they occur, happens for a reason.

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I would say that sentence as written is inherently ambiguous, and should use “happens” but with one significant change that removes this ambiguity.

Everything in life, including events that seem insignificant when they occur, happens for a reason.

“Everything” is a singular pronoun, and the sentence makes it clear that the (plural) events are a part of it.

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