My university offers two courses, ECN470 and FIN470. If I ask someone whether they both are same courses(by study materials), what should I ask?

  1. ‘Is’ ECN470 and FIN470 the same course?


  1. ‘Are’ ECN470 and FIN470 the same courses?

Neither of those are correct.

It would actually be phrased:

Are ECN470 and FIN470 the same course?

I.e. You need to use "are" for the plurality of the two course names, and then the singular "course".

It may seem counter-intuitive, but let's expand out the essential meaning to see what is singular and what is plural:

Are ECN470 and FIN470 two different names for the same course?

The reason for using the singular "course" is that even though we are only postulating that they may be a single course, the idea of this single course, which is what we are talking about in the sentence, is still singular.

The following, which is another valid way of asking this, should make this clear:

Are ECN470 and FIN470 the same course or two different courses?

  • So, the first sentence(with ‘is’) isn’t suitable here, right? – Strider Jan 14 at 13:33
  • I think you have confused the issue and added complexity to your answer by expanding/rephrasing. Why is it particularly counter-intuitive? By using the equivocal, “It would actually be phrased” you don’t make it very clear whether you think only this one is grammatically correct. – Orbital Aussie Jan 14 at 13:36
  • @Strider: Exactly, you need to use "are" for the plurality of the two course names, and then the singular "course". – Chris Mack Jan 14 at 13:43
  • @OrbitalAussie: I said it may be counter-intuitive because the OP proposed either all singular (1) or all plural (2), both of which are incorrect. Allow me to clarify that neither example in the OP is correct. – Chris Mack Jan 14 at 13:45
  • 1
    Good answer. I'd also note that you could say, "Is ECN470 the same course as FIN470?" You'd use the singular "is" because now the subject is singular. Yes, you're comparing it to something else, but the subject of the sentence is singular and so calls for a singular verb. – Jay Jan 14 at 16:49

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