I know that with certain expressions for example:

I know that 50 pounds isn't a lot.

we should use a singular verb with a plural noun.

But can I do that with this sentence?

All I got for Christmas was stocks and a computer.

When can I use that? Does anyone have a list of expressions that I should use a singular name with?


3 Answers 3


All I got for Christmas was stocks and a computer.

Many people will find this acceptable because "All" is the subject of the sentence and "all" can be used in both singular and plural. The change in number, halfway through the sentence, is not too jarring.

However if you wrote it inverted, as follows

Stocks and a computer were all I got for Christmas

I'm pretty sure that almost everyone would use "were" because the subject refers to multiple items.

  • If they were Tesla stocks, and a substantial amount, that might quite a nice gift. Dec 19, 2020 at 13:36
  • Yes but maybe it's a typo for "socks"! Dec 19, 2020 at 13:38
  • Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Dec 19, 2020 at 13:39
  • Could be worse - could be "sticks". A computer's pretty good though. Dec 19, 2020 at 13:39

As you are aware, all can take both singular and plural verbs, depending on the context.

If you consider the gifts you received as a whole rather than single items, then you can correctly say *All....was...

On the other hand, if you consider the gifts individually, you can use the plural.

It's not unusual to have this choice, simply depending on your view of the subject. All the family was... and All the family were... are both perfectly acceptable.


All is used in your sentence as a pronoun, and all as a pronoun can be either singular or plural, you can also refer to this article: https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-2/pronouns/lesson-11/indefinite-pronoun-agreement

As it is mentioned in the article:

With pronouns that can be either singular or plural, you need to look closely at the prepositional phrase of the + noun in order to determine whether the meaning is singular or plural.

In your sentence however this is not made explicit, so it is pretty much down to what interpretation is given or common usage.

All I got for Christmas was stocks and a computer.

is acceptable and might even be preferred as many would read 'all' as 1 collection of items which comprises stocks and a computer.


All I got for Christmas were stocks and a computer.

is also acceptable if we read 'all' as multiple items, e.g. if 'all' would stand for '(all of) the presents that I received for Christmas [...]'.

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