In the following sentence, I am unsure as to whether the fact the invention (singular) is made up of claims (plural) makes the subject singular or plural and therefore requires is or are. If one of the lovely folks here could help. and maybe explain why? I would be very grateful, Thanks :)

The newly claimed invention defined by present claims 1 and 9 are submitted to be novel over the prior art…


The newly claimed invention defined by present claims 1 and 9 is submitted to be novel over the prior art…

  • Some native speakers will lose track of the subject when a clause or phrase intervenes between it and the verb, and they will use the most recent noun-phrase when establishing verbal number agreement. This doesn't make their error idiomatic. It is often a sign that they're outside the comfort zone of their normal speech patterns, and are going for a more complicated statement structure and a more formal register.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 11:50

3 Answers 3


There is no doubt that "is" is more logical, and careful writers will always use it in this case: the subject is "The invention".

Having said this, it is quite common to see (and more particularly, hear) examples like this where the speaker is affected by the more recent plural noun, and says "are".

I would suggest in written work, stick with "is".

  • Hi Colin, You have echoed my inner thought on the matter but I was really unsure and had a bit of a wobbly moment writing the letter. I think you hit in the nail on the head when you said you hear it often, I write as I speak, and would have naturally inclined for 'are' but 'is' looked better. Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 11:08

It is the invention that is submitted, regardless of how it is defined, and therefore the singular is is required.

If in doubt, split the sentence up:

The newly-claimed invention is submitted....

The invention is defined by present claims 1 and 9.....

This can be rewritten as:

The newly-claimed invention, which is defined by present claims 1 and 9, is submitted.....

Similarly you might write:

The old dog, which is covered in fleas, has been rescued.

That there are numerous fleas on the dog does not alter the fact that there is only one dog.

However your sample sentence is not idiomatic and it is difficult to know exactly what you mean.

  • "Submitted to be novel over prior art" is strange, it is true. I took it to be patent agents' jargon.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 11:11
  • it is patent agent jargon, you are correct Colin! I'm struggling to find my own style in the job, which I have not long started. Thank you for your help. Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 11:37
  • @Joel David Briscoe ...You started the job not long ago. You have not been in it long. It is ungrammatical to say "have not long started".
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 11:55
  • hence why I am here, learning. :) my speech and required level of writing are very different. I have never needed to be so correct before, and I am from a very common part of the UK which doesn't help - I was never really taught. Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 11:57

According to Grammarly.com:

  • Use is with singular subjects and are with plural subjects.

  • Collective nouns usually take is, but you can use are if you need to emphasize the individuals who belong to the group.

  • Phrases like a number of … usually take a plural verb.

Example sentences:

  • The invention is, and the claims are, things mentioned in a Patent application.

  • My invention contains several claims which are unique in this field.

  • This amendment to my inventions numbered 1234, 1235, and 1238 contains several claims which is intended to clarify their differences from other works.

So, "The newly claimed invention defined by present claims 1 and 9 is submitted to be novel over the prior art…" is correct. The "invention" is what is submitted, the claims don't stand alone nor could they (though an invention could be submitted without claims it is unlikely). The is/are choice is based upon the subject, the invention.

Further reading: When writing a Patent application the claims can be chained or non-chained as explained in "Invention Analysis and Claiming: A Patent Lawyer's Guide", so further on in your writing the claims might be dealt with in a singular sense but the invention is always singular (because you refer to your own invention and can only submit one, if you refer to other's inventions then invention can be plural).

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