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What India needs today are/is more scientists, technicians and planners.

I think both ways (is/are) the sentence is correct.

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+25

In everyday conversation, you will almost certainly hear both used. As with any language, the average English speaker does not speak their native language to grammatical perfection.

In theory, one should say:

What India needs today are more scientists, technicians and planners.

because it is the answer to the question:

"What are some things that India needs today?"

as opposed to the question:

"What is the one thing that India needs most today?"

However, we could reformulate the sentence in such a way that is is more appropriate. Consider:

What India needs today is an increase in STEM workers.

Note: "STEM" is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

This is an answer to the second question, because an increase is singular, as opposed to more scientists.

Hope this helps!

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  • Removed my other comments, since after looking there doesn't appear to be a general consensus on which is correct. Although I stand by is sounding correct as a native. May 8 '20 at 21:22
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I believe that's right. My personal choice would be the singular (is), because the sentence is equivalent to:

The thing India needs today is (there being) more scientists, technicians and planners.

Different speakers may make this choice differently, because another equivalent formulation is:

More scientists, technicians and planners are needed in India today.

You can find examples of that choice in printed English works, such as:

"What we need today are ways to support the humanities..." (source)

This sentence could've been written with is, if interpreted as "the thing we need today...".

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  • 1
    This is illogical. The second sentence is equivalent to "What we need today is (there being) ways to support the humanities." Both sentences should receive the same treatment. May 4 '20 at 18:38
  • @MicahWindsor I made no claim that my rephrasing of the OP's original sentence is the only equivalent way of phrasing it. The example I gave from a published source could've been written with is and still be correct, reflecting different speaker choices. If you're trying to say I'm low on details about why my second example is "correct", that's fair. I'll update my answer.
    – RuslanD
    May 4 '20 at 19:23
  • I am saying that your second sentence is correct, and so it should be, since it was from a published source. However, the first sentence should follow the same rule as the second for the reasons I pointed out earlier. The nouns following "is/are" are both plural. Writing the second sentence with "is" would sound ridiculous even if it was correct. May 4 '20 at 19:36
  • @MicahWindsor if you're saying that the use of "are" is more grammatically correct (which I believe you are, and your own answer seems to imply), could you provide a link to an authoritative grammar source? The version with is doesn't sound ridiculous to me, and in fact I've heard it used even in professional contexts.
    – RuslanD
    May 4 '20 at 19:59
  • I don't know what you consider an authoritative grammar source, but a google search for "what we need today is" and "what we need today are" shows that, at least predominantly, "are" is used when the indirect object is plural and "is" when the IO is singular. I have seen no counterexamples. May 4 '20 at 20:06

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