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Geodesic domes have lots of issues, especially when they're used as a place to live.

My biggest concern is that the dependent clause has a plural pronoun "they're" with a singular verb "live".

Disclaimer: My (grammarian) logic for this concern may be incorrect. If it is incorrect please let me know. TY.

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    Why should to live agree with geodesic domes when the geodesic domes are not the ones doing the living? – Peter Shor Jan 19 at 20:22
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Live is not a singular verb: it is marked by to as an infinitive, a non-finite verb without either tense or number. The infinitival to live is a complement to the noun place = "a place where one may live".

Strictly speaking, place should be plural—ordinarily each dome (or at most a few) are used as a residence. But in informal use nobody will notice the disagreement.

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The word "live" is not a singular form. 

 

You have a concern regarding the dependent clause.  I suspect that we can examine that concern even when the clause stands independently:

They're used as a place to live.

It may also be helpful to expand the contraction:

They are used as a place to live.

The subject is "they".  The verb which agrees is "are". 

The word "used" is also a verb, but it is part of the verb construction "are used".  Since the "are" of "are used" agrees with its subject, the entire construction agrees with its subject.  On its own, this "used" doesn't agree with anything. 

The phrase "to live" is another verb, but it is not a part of the verb construction "are used".  Instead, this infinitive phrase is traditionally regarded as a modifier of "a place".  It's a non-finite form that has no subject and does not need to agree with anything. 

 

The subject "they" and the compliment "place" do not agree.  "They" is plural, but "place" is singular.  There is no rule of English grammar that says that a complement must agree with its subject.  Even though they share the same referent, they are separate references. 

In this case, giving the subject and the complement the same grammatical number might be clearer and might count as better style:

They're used as places to live.

Still, this agreement is not required, and there are times when such an agreement isn't even sensible:

These cows are one herd. Those cows are another herd.

 

By the way, the word "live" is not always an infinitive form.  It also happens to be one of the simple present-tense forms.  Even in that case, it is not the third-person singular form.  It agrees with first-person, second-person, and third-person plural subjects:

1st:   I live. We live.
2nd:   You live.
3rd singular:   He lives. She lives. It lives.
3rd plural:   They live.

The singular form is "lives".

  • I'd like to speak up for 'a place to live' as better style than the plural. In this context a place to live refers to all the possible kinds of places: houses, hotels, tents, river boats, and geodesic domes. So "houses are a place to live " is clearly a statement about houses in general, whereas 'houses are places to live' suggests that the class 'houses' comprises many different kinds of place (which is true but is not the intended meaning in this context). – JeremyC Jan 19 at 22:43
  • Thank you Gary. I don't understand something. You said, "On its own, this "used" doesn't agree with anything." If you don't expand the contraction, doesn't "used" agree with "They're"? – Ian Simons Jan 20 at 2:18
  • Even when it's contracted, "are" is the verb that agrees. "Used" is like most regular verbs. It has a participle form that's identical to it's past-tense form. We can see the difference when we use a verb with a distinct participle form: They're seen, they're taken, they're given -- these are correct. They're saw, they're took, they're gave -- these don't work. The past-tense forms "saw", "took" and "gave" want subjects. Participles are another non-finite form. They don't require subjects, and they can't agree with something they don't have. – Gary Botnovcan Jan 20 at 3:26

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