In the following sentence:

What the remote areas need __ education to children and what the children need __ good textbooks at the moment.

Should I fill both in with "is"? If I see "what..." as a singular.

Or should I fill the blanks in with "is" and "are" if I choose my verbs by referring what's coming after?

  • Does this answer your question? Are vs is usage
    – Astralbee
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 11:33
  • 1
    @ Astralbee , I think mine is different from this, as I am asking whether viewing "what..."" as a singular subject or its singularity depending on the noun referred by "what" Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 11:56
  • You use "is" with singular nouns and "are" with plural nouns. "Textbooks" is plural, so it's "are". That simple.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 21:08
  • This is a really basic question, there's no evidence of research, and there are multiple questions on this subject already on SE. ell.stackexchange.com/questions/96368/…
    – Astralbee
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 21:09

1 Answer 1


You should choose "is" and "are". Specifically the second clause should be,

what the children need are good textbooks.

Grammarphobia blog

When “what” is the subject of the clause (and the same is true of “all”), it agrees in number — singular or plural — with the complement (as we said, the word or phrase that completes the sentence).

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