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My brother is a highschooler. His mid-term English-language exam is early next month. His teacher gave him an assignment in preperation for the exam. One of the questions given is:

(Bears - bananas - broccoli) is sweet fruit.

I called the teacher telling him that none of the choices make a correct sentence: Broccoli is a vegetable, bears are animals, and bananas should be "banana" to be in agreement with the singular verb is. However, he keeps arguing bananas is the correct choice.

Edit

His argument is that "bananas" refers to the substance that makes up the fruit, rather than the units, pretty much as chicken refers to the substance, or flesh, in " I like chicken" - not chickens. So he says bananas is equal to chicken in this example.

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    He is bananas... – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 22 '17 at 20:52
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    Ask him to explain his choice, and add that to your question. – user3169 Dec 22 '17 at 21:05
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    I would never utter "X is sweet fruit" in any context. I would say "Bananas are a sweet fruit" or "Strawberries are a sweet fruit," maybe even "An apple is a sweet fruit," but the lack of an article there, seems to me, completely ungrammatical, and the usage of "Bananas" as a noun referring to the substance of banana is similarly completely wrong. – Tyg13 Dec 23 '17 at 3:58
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    At this point I think this question is really an interpersonal problem. Most HS teachers are willing to realize and accept when they make trivial mistakes. An appropriate response would have been something like “Oops. Let me fix that.” Since he boldly refused that, you should immediately drop focus on the bananas question and instead begin wondering what other egregious errors he is making in class. Perhaps you and he should have a visit with the principal or the school board about meeting state and federal educational requirements in his class? – Dúthomhas Dec 23 '17 at 7:44
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    You could of course say something like "A basket of bananas is...", but that's not the question. – NotThatGuy Dec 23 '17 at 9:29

11 Answers 11

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His argument is that "bananas" refers to the substance that makes up the fruit, rather than the units, pretty much as chicken refers to the substance, or flesh, in "I like chicken" - not chickens. So he says bananas is equal to chicken in this example.

I want to debunk his argument. He agrees that we'd say, "I like chicken" (not chickens) – but that is the singular form of the word. So I wonder why he thinks we'd switch to the plural, and say the very ungrammatical, "Bananas is sweet fruit." He is dishing out bad guidance here.

I agree with Andrew; these are correct ways to say this:

  • Bananas are a sweet fruit.

  • A banana is a sweet fruit.

This one is also valid:

  • The banana is a sweet fruit.

(Here, the definite article the indicates we are referring to all bananas, not one particular banana.)

One could even say:

  • Bananas are sweet fruits.
  • Banana is sweet fruit.

I think both of those are less common, but they are both grammatical.

But the one he is using:

  • Bananas is sweet fruit.

should be avoided in all cases.

Going back to his chicken argument, I can say either one of these:

  • Chicken is healthy meat.
  • Banana is sweet fruit.

But I would not say, "Chickens is healthy meat," nor would I say, "Bananas is sweet fruit."

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    @Lambie - A tad unusual perhaps, but not ungrammatical. Apples are sweet fruits given their sugar content, but are more friendly with a glycemic index of 38. Because pineapples are sweet fruits, it is best to eat them in their natural form rather than as juice. Naseberries are sweet fruits about the size of a tangerine with a rough tan skin. – J.R. Dec 23 '17 at 21:38
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    (cont.) Plums are sweet juicy fruits that have high nutritional value. Cherries are sweet fruits and many people eat them between main meals. Pawpaws are sweet fruits with a custard texture and tropical flavor. Plums are small fruits that may be sweet or tart. – J.R. Dec 23 '17 at 21:38
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    @Lambie - I don't disagree with you. It's uncommon. But there's no sense acting like it's "wrong" just because it's rare. I put the word "even" in my answer to show that two of these are a bit of a stretch – yet they still ring more correct than Bananas is sweet fruit, at least in my ear. Note that the OP hasn't asked, "Is this common parlance?" but, "Is this possible by any chance?" – J.R. Dec 24 '17 at 1:23
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    @Lambie - Just so you know, I visited every hit I quoted here, and only cited examples that I felt came from well-written sources. Again, I agree with you: it is, as you say, an “odd man out” wording”. As I cautioned in my answer, it is "less common, but [still] grammatical." – J.R. Dec 24 '17 at 22:12
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    @Sara - “odd-man out” (not “old-man out”) is an idiom referring to something that doesn’t fit well with the things around it (see Definition #2 here). In this case, Lambie and I both agree that “fruits” is an uncommon, specialized usage that, while you may see it from time-to-time, it’s relatively rare and probably best avoided, since “fruit” is the more normal way to say it. – J.R. Dec 25 '17 at 13:05
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If you use "banana" as a measured recipe ingredient, it's an uncountable, singular noun:

Banana can be used as a substitute for egg, as it binds the ingredients together.

The recipe says to add a cup of banana to the cake mix.

Usually the recipe will call for a certain number of bananas (rather than an amount) since once you peel a banana you need to use it, and it's much easier to measure individual bananas than portions of banana:

This cake recipe says we need three bananas. Are there any in the pantry?

It's pretty much the same for all fruit: apple/apples, peach/peaches, and so on.

That being said, it's not natural to say, "Banana is a sweet fruit". You could say either:

Bananas are (a) sweet fruit.

or

A/The banana is a sweet fruit.

Btw, I think the teacher meant to write "pears" instead of "bears", which are otherwise not normally confused with one another.

(Edit) Apparently I misunderstood, and it's a "which of these three is correct" type of question. So the question could have been better phrased, "Which of the following is a sweet fruit: bears, broccoli, or bananas?"

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    You could also say "Bananas are a sweet fruit" – Greenonline Dec 22 '17 at 21:37
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    Lots of bears out there sighing with relief. – user242899 Dec 22 '17 at 23:16
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    All this is true but the question as asked by the teacher is an English mistake. – Lambie Dec 22 '17 at 23:40
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    @Andrew I don't believe they meant "pears" instead of "bears". Since pear(s) (is/are) (a) sweet fruit(s) too, then two answers would be correct! – Mr Lister Dec 23 '17 at 14:19
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    You can also say "The banana is a sweet fruit." – msh210 Dec 23 '17 at 20:35
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It is possible, though slightly torturous, to come up with a scenario where this works. For example, if you create a dessert dish of semi-smashed banana chunks, maybe cooked a little, you might refer to this dish as "bananas." Akin to calling a bowl of sliced cling peaches "peaches."

If you eat this as part of a meal, you might say "bananas is sweet fruit, but mashed potatoes is savory starch." You're no longer referring to discrete countable banana items, but the count-less substance in the bowl.

For an English-language learner? No, definitely it should be "bananas are sweet fruit" or "bananas are sweet fruits," or "banana is a sweet fruit." For the "substance" situation that the teacher discussed, I think most native speakers would say "banana is sweet fruit."

You could also say "you calling me bananas is nuts." =)

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    You might say "Sand or pebbles is suitable for filling a hole." Why not bananas? – Keith McClary Dec 23 '17 at 5:58
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    @KeithMcClary "pebbles" is not singular. It should be "pebbles are suitable for filling a hole". Similarly, there's no reason why you can't use bananas (plural countable), "Bananas are not suitable for filling a hole". – Andrew Dec 23 '17 at 6:13
  • I would not say to an ELL: Bananas are sweet fruits. Fruit is plural in modern English. – Lambie Dec 23 '17 at 13:43
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To my ear, the most natural sentence is "The banana is a sweet fruit." "Bananas are sweet fruits," doesn't make sense, though, as there is only one type of commonly eaten banana. "Apples are sweet fruits..." is reasonable because there are several varieties of apples. This is similar to plural "fish" and plural "fishes."

Having said that, I wouldn't think twice if someone said, "Bananas are sweet fruits." But, if an native-speaking friend said, "Bananas is sweet fruit," I would poke fun at them.

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    There are many varieties of bananas, but one doesn't see them in US supermarkets. – Lambie Dec 25 '17 at 16:12
  • @Lambie Yes. Thus, I said, "one type of commonly eaten banana." I try to be precise to avoid these sorts of comments. – Rubellite Fae Jan 1 '18 at 3:52
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"A truckload of bananas is very heavy."

So, yes it is possible, if you make the word bananas part of an adjective phrase of a singular noun.

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    Although to be clear, the verb "is" agrees with the subject "truckload" and "of bananas" is just a prepositional phrase. The juxtaposition of "bananas" with "is", is otherwise meaningless. – Andrew Dec 24 '17 at 0:36
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If the teacher really wants to refer to the food substance then the correct term is "banana" not "bananas", as already noted in an earlier answer:

https://ell.stackexchange.com/a/151176/56627

Example of use -- this nutritional article does not follow a uniform style in using 'banana/bananas' but these extracts represent correct usage when referring to the food substance:

Compared to apple, banana has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrates (...) Banana is rich in vitamins B6 and B12

Source: Health Benefits of Bananas


If "bananas" is being used as a generic name for a type of fruit, then it is an English convention of usage that when plural words like"apples", "oranges" or "bananas" are used as a generic name, the word is followed by the plural form of a verb; so the plural "are" is typically used rather than the singular "is":

Apples are nutritious.

Oranges are rich in vitamin C.

Bananas contain (not contains) calcium and vitamins.

Bananas are nutritious.

If you are particular to combine 'banana' with 'sweet fruit' then typical constructions would be

The banana is a sweet fruit.

Bananas are sweet fruits.

Note that both 'the banana' and 'bananas' are used as generic names here.

More complicated for learners:

Bananas are a sweet fruit.

Bananas are sweet fruit.

Here "fruit" is used as plural instead of "fruits", or to describe "a type of fruit", and "bananas" is also used as a generic name for a type of fruit, so we are really saying either that bananas are sweet fruits, or that bananas are a type of sweet fruit. This usage appears to be more common in the USA. See this comment posted 2 days ago, and this relevant answer on English.SE: https://english.stackexchange.com/a/403172/231519

You don't see "bananas is" used anywhere in this context. It is not grammatical to say "bananas is sweet fruit" or "bananas is a (type of) sweet fruit." So the teacher is mistaken here. Unfortunately he might have learned his English by rules rather than practice, and like many another English Language Learner, got confused by a notoriously tricky language!


However you cannot argue so easily with a teacher in Asia or the Middle East. See my closely related question, and another member's question about your exact situation, at Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange, for some interpersonal solutions:

How can I get more co-operation from a teacher who discourages a student from asking questions to clear his confusion?

How to politely correct a teacher?


Sad but true: "bananas" when used as idiom has some other meanings that the teacher probably wouldn't like to hear...

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/74581/why-does-bananas-mean-crazy


Considering your titular question here:

Is "bananas is" possible by any chance?

If the question does not restrict answers to the "sweet fruit" part then it is very possible to write "bananas is" in a simple sentence as in

bananas is the go-to food for athletes to quickly regain energy and potassium during tiring games.

Here "bananas" is a food choice and linked with "the go-to food": therefore we use the singular form "is".

Also, if the use of "bananas" is not restricted to a generic name for a type of fruit:

three bananas is a substantial breakfast.

Here "three bananas" describes a food unit and can therefore be taken as a single entity, so 'is' sounds better than 'are', especially when linked to "a substantial breakfast" (the construction "three bananas are a substantial breakfast" might be technically correct but doesn't sound so right to my ear. I am curious to know what native speakers feel about the natural choice of is/are here.)

  • You always blow me away with your thorough, beautiful answers. You're the best English Student I've ever seen. – Sara Dec 27 '17 at 6:02
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    Thanks @Sara! I love English and am glad to learn interesting things while researching these answers. Also glad to help you and other users who want to learn more by asking questions here on ELL! – English Student Dec 27 '17 at 13:40
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Just want to point out that while others are correct in saying that "banana is sweet fruit" would be grammatically correct, it sounds rather strange.

I think that the average American native speaker will think that you are trying to sound Shakespearean (e.g., "parting is such sweet sorrow") and therefore sophisticated, or that you're trying to speak in some kind of dialect.

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I suspect that the question is about the definition of the term and not the grammar of the sentence. The problem with the question is the implication that it is about grammar.

For example, restructuring the question to "Which is a sweet fruit?" you would list the plural forms of the words, as listed in the question. It would sound wrong to say: "Which is a sweet fruit: bear, brocolli, banana".

His point about chicken fits with this as well. You would list "chicken" referring to the meat and not "chickens" referring to the animal.

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    I could buy this if the question was worded the way you word it here in your answer. But it wasn't, and that's a problem. It's a good thought, though. – J.R. Dec 24 '17 at 10:19
  • @J.R. The point is that I think this is how the instructor sees it, and without knowing this it may be impossible to argue with him about it. He is looking at it as a choice from a list of definitions, and not a word that makes the sentence grammatical. The question needs to be improved, but not necessarily by changing bananas to banana. – Dave Cousineau Dec 24 '17 at 17:10
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This may be a more niche usage, but if Bananas is in quotes, you can use it, plural or not plural. Here is an example:

"Bananas" is a noun.

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It could be used in a comparative sentence. For example: Bananas is to blueberries as cherries is to crab apples.

In this example, is the comparison between quantity, beginning letter of each word pair, or that they are all fruit?

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"The bananas is..." would instantly mean that "the Bananas" is a hotel, island, band, cocktail, hill and similar. The reason is that banana has a completely regular singular form so to any ear it is so much of a distraction that the only possible logical resolution is given above. (Another possible verbal resolution would be that you meant "the banana's [omitted] is...")

There is no grammatical difference between "bananas" and "tables" or "books". "Books is bad", "the books is bad" !? very much nonsense.

So what is the conundrum and how could it be that your teacher is right?

The question comes from: "Which item is sweet fruit?" which you can freely reply as Minions would with "Bananas!"

"Who broke the window?" "They did it."

Since they wanted to save space, you have had this confusion.

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