According to Guinnessworldrecord.com, the most piano key hits in one minute is 824, achieved by Domingos-Antonio Gomes (Portugal) in Lisbon, Portugal, on 4 March 2017. I knew this sentence has to be grammatically correct, but I still have two questions:

1) Why is the word "hit" used as a third-person singular form? I thought it should be used as a past participle ("hit"), in order to form the perfect tense, like "the biggest cake made by a human being" or "the funniest joke told by my father". Is it because "hit", in this case, is a predicate verb (whose subject is "key") and not a postpositive determiner?But shouldn't the subject of a hit be a person?

2) Why is the word "key" in the singular form here? Since it is modified by "most", I thought the countable noun "key" should be put in plural form (keys), like "the most votes I've ever got".

Can someone explain that to me? Thanks so much.

3 Answers 3


"Hit" can be either a noun or a verb. There are therefore two correct phrases.

As a verb you get

The most piano keys hit in a one minute

This might be understood to mean "different keys", but that doesn't appear to be the record here, instead there was one key that was repeatedly pressed.

If hit is a noun you get:

The most piano-key hits in one minute

Each press is one "hit" (as a noun) and "piano-key" is a modifying phrase. Nouns used in this attributive position like adjectives tend to be singular. A hyphen might have made the compound noun clearer.


The subject of the sentence is most. The most is 824.

The most what? The most hits. They are using hit as a noun, and modifying it with the noun key.

What is a hit? Well, it is what happens when you hit something. A fighter might take a lot of hits. So can a piano key. Some other things can get hits - for instance, a fishing line or a want ad.

Interestingly, the sentence would work just as well if they said the "most piano keys hit" - the most keys that have been hit, ever.

I think this latter construction is a tiny bit less confusing, and maybe wouldn't have caused you a problem. Hopefully this helps; it is a somewhat tricky sentence to run into.


For the moment, let's ignore the supplemental participial phrases and focus on the core of the clause:

the most piano key hits in one minute is 824

This is only one clause.  It does not contain a subordinate clause.  It has exactly one verb, "is". 

The simple subject of the clause is "hits".  This is a plural noun, not a third-person singular present-tense verb and not a past participle. 

The noun "hits" is modified by the attributive noun phrase "piano key", the adjective "most", the article "the", and the prepositional phrase "in one minute". 

Attributive nouns tend to take their singular form.  There are exceptions.  For example, we speak of "sales figures".  However, we speak of a "toy box" no matter how many toys are in the box, and a "tooth brush" no matter how many teeth need cleaning.  Plural attributive nouns are the exception to a general rule.  "Piano key hits" simply isn't exceptional. 

As an adjective, "most" can modify either an uncountable noun or a plural noun.  Pianos, keys and hits are all countable.  This "most" cannot modify a singular countable "piano" or a singular countable "key".  The only available noun that it could modify is the plural "hits". 

What might be the most confusing aspect of this clause is the apparent disagreement between the plural "hits" of the subject and the singular "is" of the predicate.  The usual case is that the form of the subject and the form of the finite verb will agree.  In this case, the plural noun phrase represents some singular concept: a given number, or a specific achievement, or a level of performance.  The verb agrees with the semantics of the subject, not necessarily its particular form.

The record for the most hits is 824. 

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .