Good day, does 'yield' still agree with the 'subject' in the following sentence? The place of the modal verb 'can' is confusing.

Some people contend that measures can be undertaken that yields positive outcomes

(Here the subject is 'measures' followed by modal verb 'can', and then, 'yields' is in singular form because measures-can (subject-verb agreement) already agreed.

Or should it be

Some people contend that measures can be undertaken that yield positive outcomes

(measures-yield) as (subject-verb)

  • Assuming @Clare has the gist of it right in terms of intended meaning, there remains a problem with that. You really, truly, deeply need to use which in this instance. "... which [will] yield positive outcomes." This will prevent the misparsing that produced Haseo's answer. – Phil Sweet Dec 1 '17 at 1:39
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    Using "which" would indeed prevent the misparsing, but it would also suggest that, whatever measures are undertaken, they would yield positive outcomes. I think you really need "that", to make the relative clause restrictive, rather than merely additional information about all the measures that can be undertaken. – Andreas Blass Dec 1 '17 at 3:03

Your second one is correct:

Some people contend that measures can be undertaken that yield positive outcomes.

Yield here agrees with measures. There might be some confusion because the relative clause that yield positive outcomes does not come directly after the noun phrase that it modifies. If we place it directly after (adjacent to) that noun phrase, we get

Some people contend that measures that yield positive outcomes can be undertaken.

It should be clearer now that yield agrees with measures.

Relative clauses do not have to immediately follow the head noun that they modify. A relative clause that does not follow immediately the head noun is called an extraposed relative clause.

Cambridge University's Language and Cognition, Volume 9, issue 2, contains an abstract of a study called 'When relative clause extraposition is the right choice, it’s easier', and it explains that

speakers prefer [relative clause exposition] over adjacent ordering when the [relative clause] is long in relation to the [verb phrase], the subject [noun phrase] is indefinite, and the main verb is passive/presentative.

Let's check the clause which concerns us, which is

measures can be undertaken that yield positive outcomes

1 is the relative clause long in relation to the verb phrase?

It is longer. The verb phrase is can be undertaken; the relative clause is that yield positive outcomes.

2 Is the subject indefinite?

Yes, measures is indefinite. We can't identify which measures are being referred to. Perhaps no definite measures are in the speaker's mind.

3 Is the main verb is passive/presentative?

It is the passive can be undertaken.

The same abstract contains another example of relative clause exposition:

Some options were considered that allow for more flexibility.

Notice how similar in structure it is to the one you ask about.


Just a quick tip before answering: use commas and semicolons, it will make the reading way easier, I had to read it twice in order to understand it.

Yes, it must still agree with the verb; even though That is referring to the subject of the main clause Measures, which is plural, That, which is representing Measures, is still singular; therefore:

Some people contend that measures can be undertaken; that yields positive outcomes.

The subject must always agree with the verb no matter what.

  • @Clare, if that is one relative clause, then, in fact, yield is correct; however, if it were a relative clause, it obligatorily would have to be placed as close to the noun it is describing as possible: Some people contend that measures that yield positive outcomes can be undertaken It makes no sense at all to place it at the end of the sentence, it is not a dummy subject, it is an adjective; if it is not placed close to the noun it describes, the sentence becomes completely ambiguous. I do doubt that it was supposed to be a relative clause. – Davyd Nov 30 '17 at 20:19
  • Now you see why it has to be placed as close to the noun as possible? - But of course, if you show me an example of this being officially used, maybe in a magazine, journalist article or etc... then I will consider such locomotion. – Davyd Nov 30 '17 at 20:31
  • No matter how far 'that' is from 'measures', nothing in between is a noun, so the interpretation as a relative pronoun is valid -- and there was no semicolon or period to suggest a contextual demonstrative pronoun instead. If it was demonstrative, it would be singular in this case; but the antecedent would not be 'measures', but the entire preceding clause. – amI Dec 1 '17 at 0:31
  • @Phil Sweet, Seem like YIELD(only) is fine. Also, I intentionally used 'that' instead of 'which' for coherence. I undertand what you mean here, thx. – John Arvin Dec 1 '17 at 4:49

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