I Google-searched in quotes this: "The top 20 most common verbs is" and received 32.600.000 articles.

I Google-searched in quotes this: "The top 20 most common verbs are" and received 28.700.000 articles.

What is correct, "is" or "are". I think like this. Article "the" means always singular, means 1, like "a". There is no "The verbs" and "top 20 most common verbs" means "list" (1 list) and we have "The list is" and not "The list are".

Or these sentences:

"Check out this list of the 30 most common verbs in the English language! The verbs are listed in their base form, present tense, past tense, and perfect forms." (URL: https://ginsengenglish.com/blog/most-common-english-verbs)

"The verbs" in second sentence means "this list" in the first sentence. Why do not write only "Verbs are listed..." without "The"? "The" article builds superlative because noun with superlative is alwayes 1. There is no more "The best", but only 1. Because of that there is no more "lists the most..." but only 1 "list the most...".

This my question is being induced by this: "England (have/has) been the weaker side..."?

  • 5
    Who told you that "the" means singular? "The apples are red." The indefinite article a is singular, but the definite article the can apply to both singular and plural nouns. Mar 28, 2019 at 18:53
  • 1
    @CanadianYankee -- Your comment would make a good answer.
    – Jasper
    Mar 28, 2019 at 18:58
  • I think so because of superlative. Ok, I'm wrong about the = singular.
    – b2ok
    Mar 28, 2019 at 18:59
  • 1
    Other languages like German, most Romance languages that I know of (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, etc.) have different definite articles for singular/plural and for different genders. English just has "the".
    – Mixolydian
    Mar 28, 2019 at 19:18
  • 1
    It's common to refer to "the top ten" (or some other number), but that's still plural just like it would be without the word "top." For example: "The three students are here," or, "the top three students are here." Mar 28, 2019 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


First, "'the means always singular" is not correct. We have only one definite article and it's used to refer to plural or singular words: the dog, the dogs.

Second, a superlative adjective does not have to describe a singular noun. A group of things can be the most ADJECTIVE: the rosiest raindrops, the wispiest whiskers, the brightest kettles, and the warmest mittens (my favorite things).

Thus, we can't rely on the direct article ("the") or the superlative to determine whether "the top ten verbs" should be treated as singular or plural. Actually, there's no single right answer. It will depend on context. Namely, we have to decide whether we're talking about the group - a group which you could call "the top ten" - or the individual members of that group.


The top ten is my favorite part of The Late Show -> Every night, on The Late Show, David Letterman would read a list of the top ten of something (usually something silly, like "The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas"). I'm referring to the list, or the segment in which he read the list, so I use the singular "is my favorite."

The top ten most used verbs in English are all intransitive -> I want to say that each of these ten verbs is intransitive, so I'm talking about the group of ten verbs, not as a group, but as individual words.

By the way, think twice about using these kinds of Google searches as a learning tool. Most of the Internet is not edited and there's plenty of bad English. Also, results vary for different people in different places. When I searched for the phrase "The top 20 most common verbs is" I got one result, which was this very page.

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