Consider this sentence:

A popular source of information is social networks of users.

What I mean here is that social networks in general (not any particular social network and not all of social networks combined together) are a popular source of information for ... . However, the verb is "is" but social networks is plural. Is the sentence correct? If not, how should I correct it?


The subject of your sentence is "a popular source of information," so you are correct that the verb should be "is." It does sound a bit odd to follow up with the plural noun phrase "social networks of users". A better phrasing might be:

Social networks of users are a popular source of information.

This is a more natural sentence, something like "Paco and Lynn are a team." There is nothing wrong with many things combining into one.

You might want to reconcile the phrases to be both plural or both singular, such as:

Social networks of users are popular sources of information.

This isn't really necessary though.

  • To be honest, I'm inclined to disagree with your final "might even better" suggestion. In practice it seems to me that semantically all those social networks are being collectively considered as "one type of source", which makes your initial "better phrasing" version 100% idiomatic. Pluralising sources just strikes me as something of a pedantic "hypercorrection" based on "logical rules", rather than what people naturally say. Same as, for example, Vegetarian meals are popular choices in this restaurant (which in real life would almost always be a popular choice). Oct 23 '18 at 16:33
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Feel free to disagree. I hedged it behind "might" and "such as" for that reason.
    – Tashus
    Oct 23 '18 at 16:42
  • I don't disagree that much! It wasn't me who downvoted your answer, even though I didn't originally upvote it either - but I'll do that now to counter what I feel is an unjustifiably harsh judgement by someone else. Oct 23 '18 at 17:27
  • Can't we use "A popular source of information for personalization is social network of users"?
    – Shayan
    Oct 24 '18 at 6:36
  • @Shayan I'm not sure why you would add "personalization". That changes the meaning, but I suppose it makes sense.
    – Tashus
    Oct 24 '18 at 11:46

In good-sounding idiomatic usage,I would use:

users' social networks and not: social networks of users.

A popular source of information [singular subject] is [therefore a singular verb] is users' social networks.


Users' social networks [plural subject] are [therefore plural verb] a popular source of information.

There is no rule about using the possessive but it does sound better to the native speaker's ear. Whereas "a popular source of information" sounds as good as here the equally correct "a popular information source".

See academic usage:


Influence of Topical Interests on Users’ Social Networks


In this study, based on a social conference support system Conference Navigator 3 (CN3), we explored three kinds of knowledge sources to generate recommendations: users' preference about talks (CN3 bookmarks), users' social networks (research collaboration network and CN3 following network) and talk content information (titles and abstracts).

users' social networks enter link description here

Please note: there is also quite a bit of usage such as: cocaine users' social networks or drug users' social networks or adults' social networks or teenagers' social networks.

  • I interpret "social networks of users" to mean "networks comprising users" rather than "networks belonging to users." I don't think the possessive is appropriate.
    – Tashus
    Oct 23 '18 at 16:47
  • I think the big difference is that telephone lines cannot be made of customers, nor can garbage trucks be made of cities. In this context, "networks of users" usually means "networks consisting of users".
    – Tashus
    Oct 23 '18 at 17:21
  • 1
    If our goal is good-sounding idiomatic usage, can't we just omit the word "users" altogether? I don't see what's wrong with: Social networks are a popular source of information. All social networks have users, so I don't think that tacking on "of users" or starting with "users'" adds much value or meaning.
    – J.R.
    Oct 23 '18 at 20:47
  • @J.R. Of course, if one is referring to users of social networks. You could just drop it but that does not make what I posted wrong at all in terms of the questions asked. Also, it could be all kinds of other nouns and off-line (real, non-virtual) social networks, sociologically speaking. So, as I general idea, I take offense at the dv....[I know,it wasn't you.]. Because my grammar is fine and so is the proof, as it were.
    – Lambie
    Oct 23 '18 at 20:51

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