"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?

  • Did the doors have only a single handle? – KillingTime Sep 23 at 7:25
  • 3 + 3 = 7 or 3 + 3 = 8? 'Which one is correct?' is a poorly-formed question. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 23 at 14:33

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.

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  • 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 at 7:41
  • @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 at 7:49
  • Not really. There wasn't such explanation. it was just a simple Example. – negar.n Sep 23 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 at 8:02
  • @negar.n Another, possibly better, example would be "The time showing on the clocks was/were 13:00". Which form of the verb would you pick then? The language question is the same. – BoldBen Sep 23 at 8:06

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