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In the sentence: "Drinking and driving is dangerous". Drinking and driving are both subjects and the word dangerous is the object (I think) but why do I have to use the verb to be in singular?

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    Are you trying to say that both drinking and driving are dangerous? Or are you saying that is dangerous to combine drinking and driving? – David Schwartz Dec 28 '17 at 0:20
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Because drinking isn't dangerous, and driving isn't dangerous – at least, not in comparison to the single activity "drinking and driving" – the two words are treated as a single unit.

This might happen a lot when we combine two or more elements in a sentence:

My favorite drinks are gin and tonic.

This could mean I have two favorite drinks: gin is a favorite drink, and so is tonic.

My favorite drink is gin and tonic.

This means that a gin-and-tonic is my favorite drink.

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    My favorite band is Guns and Roses. :) – Andrew Dec 27 '17 at 17:48
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    My favorite store is Crate and Barrel. Soup and salad is my favorite lunch. – geneSummons Dec 27 '17 at 21:03
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    @geneSummons - Of the three examples added in the comments, I especially like your soup and salad example – that is the one that is not a proper noun. And speaking of Guns and Roses, interestingly enough, I could say Simon and Garfunkel is my favorite band, or Simon and Garfunkel are my favorite singers, depending on if I am talking about them as a duo, or as two individual artists. – J.R. Dec 27 '17 at 22:39
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    @J.R.: Or perhaps I like Garfunkel, Simon not so much :-) – jamesqf Dec 28 '17 at 2:39
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    @J.R not could, 'does'. I.e "This means I have two favourite ..." – mcalex Dec 28 '17 at 9:12
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There, and is understood to mean "in combination with" hence the singular is appropriate. They are not individually dangerous (if you don't drive recklessly and drink in moderation) and that's why you wouldn't say are.

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    Rendering it (temporarily) with “drinking-and-driving” hyphenated to make it plain it's a single thing, makes it more obvious. – Will Crawford Dec 27 '17 at 19:15
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    Why does the same logic not work, e.g., in "Bonnie and Clyde is [sic!] dangerous", even if my intent is to express that they are only dangerous together, not individually? – Viktor Toth Dec 27 '17 at 23:07
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo I don't know what the difference is between "together" vs. "in combination with". In any case, let's stick with "together": "Drinking, together with driving, is dangerous" vs. "Bonnie, together with Clyde, is dangerous". Yet "Drinking and driving is dangerous" vs. "Bonnie and Clyde are dangerous." The two words are combined in the exact same manner. In fact, I am wondering if there are any examples that do not involve the word "driving" (e.g., "drinking and driving is...", "texting and driving is..."), in the form of "something and something is"? – Viktor Toth Dec 28 '17 at 1:11
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    @ViktorToth Walking on the freeway and closing your eyes is dangerous. Filling your house with methane and lighting a match is dangerous. It is not true the "Bonnie, together with Clyde, is dangerous" means the same thing—in this case, it is not saying Clyde is dangerous, but that Bonnie alone is, because people are not something that combine in the same way that actions combine. There is a contextual understanding of what is being expressed that rules this. Perhaps the phrase "at the same time" would be more helpful for you, as it won't work for "Bonnie, at the same time as Clyde". – ErikE Dec 29 '17 at 1:06
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    @Viktor Toth: {activity} and {activity} is hardly the same as {person} and {person} – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 29 '17 at 2:00
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If you say:

Drinking and driving are dangerous.

this is the equivalent of saying:

Drinking is dangerous. Driving is dangerous.

By saying:

Drinking and driving is dangerous.

we mean that drinking to the state of being intoxicated, even mildly, and then driving while still intoxicated, is dangerous. However, the quote is much pithier than the explanation!

8

The combination of drinking and driving is a single object. Here we see one combination of two things. The common phrase 'drinking and driving is dangerous' is leaving out some clarifying words.

"Drinking and driving are dangerous" has a particular meaning: drinking is dangerous (perhaps) and driving is dangerous (perhaps), if you look at each singularly. The meaning of your sentence is that [the combination of] drinking and driving is dangerous.

An new example of 'is vs. are' with clearer context may help: Singing and rock climbing are challenging activities. Singing while rock climbing is a more challenging activity.

1

In standard English when a list of items is used as the subject of a verb then, that verb takes the plural even if all the items in the list are singular.

For example you would say

Gold, iron, copper and aluminium are metals rather than is metals (although some dialect have the opposite convention).

BUT 'drinking and driving' is a list but effectively a single compound noun. actually 'drunk driving' would be more grammatically correct but has been abandoned as the precise definition of 'drunk' is too ambiguous in this context and the phrase is used to reinforce the idea that drinking any alcohol before driving is dangerous even if you don't think you are 'drunk'.

This is different to saying 'drinking is dangerous, driving is dangerous'.

  • The expression "drunk drinking" is, to my way of thinking, less ambiguous. The participle drinking is just as ambiguous, if not more so. It could mean "drinking at the wheel" or "drinking while driving", which is still dangerous, but if you're drinking a coke, I doubt you'd risk losing your driver's license. – Mari-Lou A Dec 28 '17 at 19:00
  • @Mari-LouA I definitely think you should stop drunk drinking! It looks like you've had enough already! – CJ Dennis Dec 29 '17 at 2:21
  • Of course, I meant "drunk driving" It's funny how some typos scream out loud, while others lie quietly in wait. – Mari-Lou A Dec 29 '17 at 2:25
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    I have seen "drink driving", with or without a hyphen, used, mostly in UK publications. It's a bit better than "drunk driving" to my mind because it is more inclusive of slight impairment. – Spehro Pefhany Dec 29 '17 at 7:36
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It is the singular act of drinking and driving that is being described as dangerous. In describing multiple acts that are individually considered to be dangerous you would use the plural form of the verb.

For example:

  • Drinking and driving is dangerous and illegal.
  • Smoking and mountain climbing are dangerous and legal.
1

"Drinking and driving" is treated as one unit in this case.

"Drinking and driving" is dangerous

"X" is dangerous

Interestingly, in the UK the expression is "drink-driving", but it's still treated as a singular unit and can be placed right into the same structure:

"Drink-driving" is dangerous

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This won't be a popular opinion, but this is precisely why I have always considered this sentence to be "wrong, but common enough to not be worth correcting", with the correct way to write them being via hyphens:

Drinking-and-driving is dangerous.

But fellow netizens will beat you up the moment you dare suggest this, because they point out that there is no Official English Grammar, and hence anything the general population feels like calling "correct English" on their Thursday of choice is, by definition, Correct English.

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