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My question is about subject-verb agreement when the subject consists of two (or more) synonyms joined by 'and'. Which sentence is correct?

  1. Envy and jealousy is bad.
  2. Envy and jealousy are bad.

closed as off-topic by user3169, Varun Nair, Lucian Sava, M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ, ColleenV Feb 21 '18 at 13:06

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  • How does being synonyms make the subject singular? – user3169 Feb 18 '18 at 1:40
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    @user3169, I think in my first language (Persian) when the subject is of the kind I described, a singular verb is used, apparently because those synonyms refer to one single idea semantically. – apadana Feb 19 '18 at 15:37
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If you have a double or plural subject, you should prefer the plural when you consider the subject/s as two or more separate entities.

Thus it is more natural to write:

Envy and jealousy are bad.

But when you consider a plural subject as a single phenomenon or effect, it's perfectly legitimate to prefer the singular, as in:

The thunder and lightning frightens our pets.

Here thunder and lightning are considered as the effects of a single frightening storm.

Or:

A million dollars is a lot of money.

when you think of it as a single sum.

Equally, if you consider the dollars separately, you might say:

A million dollars have now been printed with the new security strips.

So it comes down to the way you think of the subject/s and what feels more natural in context.

  • I would have to disagree on "The thunder and lightning frightens our pets." If a dog was hiding under a bed, then only the thunder would scare it. – user3169 Feb 18 '18 at 1:48
  • @user3169 There's plenty of thunder and lightning in my part of the world and my eight dogs don't have beds to hide under. – Ronald Sole Feb 18 '18 at 10:14
  • @RonaldSole, Thanks. I think in my first language (Persian) when the subject is of the kind I described, a singular verb is used, apparently because those synonyms refer to one single idea semantically. – apadana Feb 19 '18 at 15:36

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