It seems to me that the scientific evidence for the benefits of a vegetarian diet are numerous

In this sentence, the verb 'are' is wrong or possible? As far as I know, the noun 'evidence' is uncountable. So this sentence is confusing to me.

  • Are you saying there is "numerous" evidence or there are "numerous" benefits of a veg diet? Can you explain a bit what you are trying to say – AIQ Nov 13 '19 at 3:04
  • Note that the verbal sense of the word can easily take the plural form: She evidences signs of genius. (This addresses only the title of your question, which is what I read before anything else.) – Jason Bassford Nov 21 '19 at 0:33

I agree that the sentence is odd. "Numerous" clearly calls for a plural verb. But "evidence" is clearly a singular noun.

The scientific evidence in favor of a vegetarian diet is increasingly strong.

We may conclude either that the writer is not fully conversant with English grammar or that the writer started to say one thing and changed it as he was writing. I suspect the latter because it is often the reason for my making mistakes. Probably, what was meant was eomething like

The pieces of evidence in favor of a vegitarian diet are numerous

or like

The evidence in favor of a vegitarian diet is weighty

Both of those are fine sentences, and in each case the verb fits with both the number of the subject and the meaning of the adjective.

EDIT: As AIQ has pointed out, the intended meaning may well be that the benefits are numerous. If that was the intended meaning, then the sentence should resemble

The evidence shows that the benefits of a vegitarian diet are numerous

In that case, "are" is not the verb associated with "evidence, and "numerous" is not modifying "evidence." "Benefits" is a valid plural noun, and benefits can be few or many.

The sentence as written is wrong, but it is close to several different sentences that are correct.

  • Hello Jeff, I remember reading that "evidence" cannot be modified by "numerous" because "evidence" is a collective noun (that means we can't say one evidence, two evidence, or numerous evidence). I think that is why you use "pieces". I have a feeling that there is something missing in the sentence, or that the author changed their mind (like you said). I think that "are" is for "benefits". "It seems to me that there is strong scientific evidence that the benefits of a vegetarian diet are numerous". – AIQ Nov 13 '19 at 3:17
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    @AIQ I think you meant mass noun which is not the same thing as "collective noun". In fact the word is occasionally used countably. See this ELU post. That said, I am against pluralizing it. – Eddie Kal Nov 13 '19 at 4:12
  • @AIQ and Eddie Perhaps I was not clear enough in my answer that "evidence" is singular, whether or not it is a collective or mass noun, a complication I evaded. So evidence cannot be numerous. The ELU post was about the plural noun "evidences," which is so rare that in a long lifetime of reading I have never seen it. So I merely said that the sentence as presented did not work. But I completely missed the obvious possibility that what the sentence meant to say was that there was evidence that the benefits were numerous. Do you think I need to clarify my answer? – Jeff Morrow Nov 13 '19 at 4:25
  • @JeffMorrow I asked OP to clarify what they actually meant to say - they didn't say anything. If you wanted to, you could add that bit in your answer - the fact that "numerous" can apply to "benefits". – AIQ Nov 13 '19 at 4:38
  • 1
    AIQ Added an edit to that effect. Thanks. – Jeff Morrow Nov 13 '19 at 5:01

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