In the sentence What keeps us healthy and happy, what does "s" in "keeps" stand for? it's not a singular verb! I don't understand the usage of "s." Can you explain that? Thanks

  • 3
    'What' is considered singular here and 'keeps' applies to 'what' -- 'keeps' is not applied to 'healthy and happy' in this sentence. If you were to attach a plural noun like 'things' to 'what' then 'keeps' will be applied as 'keep' to that plural noun, as in what things keep us healthy and happy?
    – English Student
    Jun 10, 2017 at 17:58
  • @EnglishStudent Thanks, "What" is considered singular is the answer:) Would you please give me a link to study further about this?
    – Amir
    Jun 10, 2017 at 18:05
  • 2
    Your text isn't a sentence (it's just a noun phrase). There is a thing which keeps us healthy and happy, but it is unspecified in your text (where it is singular: the thing which keeps us healthy and happy). Jun 10, 2017 at 18:15
  • Sorry I dont know where to find a link for this particular construction, but you just keep reading as much English as you can -- and remember, 99.9% of your questions can be cleared right here at English Language Learners or English Language & Usage 'twin websites'! Jun 10, 2017 at 18:45
  • Is it supposed to be a question? If so, where is the question mark at the end?
    – BillJ
    Jun 11, 2017 at 7:49

2 Answers 2


Well, yes, it is a singular verb, but the understanding of it as such is idiomatic. It may be helpful to think of this sentence as What thing keeps us healthy and happy? We understand what to be asking about something by default, not some group of things.

In purely logical terms, what could be understood to be asking about a plurality, but again, we don't think of it that way. If we wanted to ask about a plurality, we would specifically ask What things keep us healthy and happy? or What are the things that keep us healthy and happy?


It's a matter of simple grammar, the 's' is added to create the right conjugation. A few examples:

Present tense - I/you/they keep - He/she/it keeps

Past tense - I (have) kept

'What' can be considered singular here, despite the fact that the answer could be Fruits and vegetables keep us happy and healthy.

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