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Here is my example: "Cloud phone solutions work over the internet, so the only on-site hardware you would ever need (is/are) the phones."

Hardware is uncountable, but phones is countable. Is the linking verb (is/are) relating to the hardware or the phones? If we turn the sentence around and say "the phones are the only hardware you need" the linking verb applies to the phones.

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    The singular subject "hardware" requires the singular verb "is". Mismatches between predicative and predicand are fairly common, especially with specifying "be", compare "The only thing we need now is some new curtains". And mismatches with ascriptive "be" most often have a plural subject with a singular predicative, cf. "Our neighbours are a nuisance". – BillJ Dec 3 '19 at 12:40
  • thanks Bill, especially for such a prompt response – Michael Frearson Dec 3 '19 at 13:57
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The subject is the hardware, which is singular, so the verb is also singular.

Cloud phone solutions work over the internet, so the only on-site hardware you would ever need is the phones.


This is similar to the following:

The one thing I don't like is [coming home to find there's no power, not being able to find a flashlight, and tripping down some stairs].

The two things I can't stand are [loud drunks] and [icy roads].

But note that while the singularity or plurality of the subject determines the verb, regardless of what follows, there is also a degree of semantic interpretation whenever it comes to the singularly or plurality of the object:

The one food I can't stand is [fish and chips].
The two foods I can't stand are [fish] and [chips].

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