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The privacy and security of your personal information is important to us.

It always confuses me if there is more than 1 noun before "of".

Does it mean "the privacy of your personal information and the security of your personal information" or "the privacy (just privacy) and security of your personal information"?

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From a semantic perspective, your first interpretation could be correct.

But from a purely syntactic perspective, neither of your interpretations are correct.

Your first interpretation might look like this:

(The privacy of your personal information is important to us) and (the security of your personal information is important to us).

Which would turn into this:

(The privacy of your personal information) and (the security of your personal information) are important to us.

However, the actual sentence uses the singular is, not the plural are.


Your second interpretation would result in part of the sentence having this meaning:

The privacy is important to us.

But that doesn't make any sense.


What's actually happening in the sentence is that privacy and security is being treated as a combined singular subject.

This is similar to eating a ham and cheese sandwich. I'm not eating (1) a ham sandwich and (2) a cheese sandwich. The single sandwich I'm eating is the combination of ham and cheese.

It could be analyzed in this way:

(The ham and cheese sandwich I'm eating) is tasty.

In the sentence in your question (at least in terms of its syntax), what's important to them is not (1) the privacy of your personal information and (2) the security of your personal information. The single thing that's important to them is the combination of the privacy and the security of your personal information.

In other words:

(The privacy and security of your personal information) is important to us.

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I thought the principle was that two singular nouns joined by the coordination conjunction 'and' then function grammatically in the same way as one plural noun.

So, the rest of the example sentence applies equally to both 'privacy' and 'security' and the singular verb 'is' must be changed to the plural 'are'.

I thought that was an elementary fact about how coordinating conjunctions (or at least 'and') function. Am I missing something?

[Note I am trying to avoid another discussion which I think goes 'A and B' is plural; while 'A or B', 'A nor B', and 'A but B' are all singular.]

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