"the handle of the doors was/were damaged."

This was an example at our English class and it has gotten me confused.

Which of them is the right answer and why?


2 Answers 2


The verb refers to the noun "handle." Thus, you use the singular verb, "was" The handle of the doors was damaged.

The confusion might arise from the fact that the word "doors" is closer to the verb. "Of the doors," however, is a prepositional phrase modifying the word "handle" and thus can be ignored in this case: "The handle was damaged."

This is all assuming, of course, that the sentence doesn't have a typo or other error in it. While subject pluralization doesn't have to agree with prepositional objects ("the tarp under the desks," for example) it is odd that the sentence would refer to one handle on multiple doors. Personally, I was imagining two handles designed to look contiguous on a pair of double doors, but even then most people would refer to "handles."

In any case, it appears to be immaterial. The question involves one handle and seems to be only a question about verb tense, not possible mistakes in pluralization.

  • That's where the confusion arises from. When we say "the handle of the doors", then we are talking about more than one handle. So why is it that it can be ignored?
    – negar.n
    Sep 23, 2020 at 7:41
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    @negar.n It is, just, possible that they are talking about a pair of doors, only one of which is fitted with a handle which allows both doors to be opened. I have seen this sort of thing occasionally. In that case we would say "The handle of the doors was damaged". The same thing would apply if there was a bar which dropped into hooks on both doors, that would be "The bar of the doors" and, if it was in place we would say "The bar of the doors was in place.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 23, 2020 at 7:49
  • Not really. There wasn't such explanation. it was just a simple Example.
    – negar.n
    Sep 23, 2020 at 7:56
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    @negar.n The fact that there is no explanation is not the point, though. It does look odd but the example is there to make you examine the sentence to see which noun the verb is associated with and, therefore, which form of the verb is required. It's an English language example, not a treatise on doors.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 23, 2020 at 8:02
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    ... No. 'Time' may also have the definition 'the temporal reading of a related device'. Thus "The time showing on my watch was 11:57, but the actual time as showing on the TV news broadcast was midday." // BoldBen's contrived possible felicitous example aside, the question needs binning (why should knowledge of weird door design be a necessary factor in answering questions on N-V agreement in English?) 'The colour of the doors Ø light grey.' and 'The paintwork on the doors Ø chipped.' show the sort of question an exam-moderator would require. Sep 23, 2020 at 14:44

But "time" has no plural ("times" in "the times we have lived!" has a completely different meaning). A handle, though, does. So unless this were a specific type of a handle like the one kindly suggested by BoldBen, "was" appears to be the only grammatical and logical option.

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