Which of these is correct?

All I saw was flashes of lightning

All I saw were flashes of lightning

2 Answers 2


The first sentence seems fine to me. Since you are talking about a scene or an object that you have seen (not flashes of lightning), using a singular verb sounds more natural.

In other words, "All" here means "The only thing".

The only thing I saw was flashes of lightning.


There have been numerous questions about verbs that follow collective nouns and there are dozens of websites that address this issue. (Just google: singular or plural with collective nouns.)

The rule is that there isn't a rule. To some extent it depends on the collective noun concerned and on the context. Apart from that, some people prefer plural verbs and others go for singular verbs.

The guide is: If you think of what you're describing as a single event or amount or episode or phenomenon, prefer the singular.

If you think of them as multiple events etc, prefer the plural.

Thus it's equally valid to say:

A million dollars is a lot of money


A million dollars were scattered by the wind.

Another example, closer to yours, is:

All I saw was people rushing in every direction


All I saw were people rushing in every direction.

The only rule is to be consistent:

Avoid sentences that mix up singulars and plurals such as: The army says they are advancing and *The train service are announcing its new schedule.

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