A bag of oranges that is ripe.

A bag of oranges that are ripe.

Should bag or oranges agree with the verb here? I think are is the correct choice here because oranges are what's ripe in this case. But if the sentence was something like

A bag of oranges that is torn

It would be is because the bag is the subject that is torn.

Is this the right way to think about this?

  • A bag of oranges that are ripe. But it isn't a question because we actually would say: A bag of ripe oranges. And a torn bag of oranges. Otherwise, to be clear you have to say: A bag of oranges, which is torn.
    – Lambie
    Apr 27, 2021 at 23:37
  • Yes, you are thinking in the right way. Apr 28, 2021 at 8:44
  • A bag of oranges that is ripe is syntactically valid - it just has a different meaning. Specifically, that the (singular) bag containing the oranges is "ripe" (the bag has been washed so many times that the fibres have become weakened, so the fabric tears easily). Apr 28, 2021 at 15:30
  • A ripe bag, I don't think so. That would be stinky, if anything.
    – Lambie
    Apr 28, 2021 at 15:58

4 Answers 4


1: (A bag)(sing) of oranges that is ripe ( Relative pronoun 'that' indicates 'a bag')

{I don't know whether the oranges are ripe, but at least, the bag is ripe.}

2: A bag of oranges(pl) that are ripe ( 'that' indicates 'oranges')

{I am interested in the contents of the bag. They are all ripe.}

  • a ripe bag is pretty meaningless. ripe can mean stinky but the likelihood of that meaning here is next to zero.
    – Lambie
    Apr 28, 2021 at 16:13
  • A bag is ripe: kind of plump ? It's difficult to imagine.(maybe grammatically correct, but unimaginable in the real life)
    – Kumas
    Apr 28, 2021 at 16:23
  • You said: "At least the bag is ripe". Ripe is not plump. Ripe means stinky: that smells bad.:)
    – Lambie
    Apr 28, 2021 at 16:27
  • It's difficult to choose proper word. ToT
    – Kumas
    Apr 28, 2021 at 16:34

A bag of oranges that are ripe.

A bag of oranges that is torn.

Yes, your interpretations are fine.

Example 2, however, seems clumsy and could be re-constructed as Lambie has commented.

In example 1, the that-clause is a restrictive relative clause modifying oranges; the copula agrees with oranges, which is plural.

  • I would not accept "A bag of oranges that is torn", in an essay. Because a torn bag of oranges is available and better.
    – Lambie
    Apr 28, 2021 at 16:14

To avoid confusion, we can use adjectives before 'bag' and 'oranges' We can say, a torn bag, ripe oranges, and a torn bag of ripe oranges.

'I have a red cow.' We don't need to say 'I have a cow that/which is red'.


I think you have this right.

Your second sentence is maybe slightly strange, but perhaps only because of the specific example. If you said "A bag of mail that is torn" it sounds fine.

There are other cases where you could really go either way, like "A group of students that is/are noisy". The difference (I think) is that in those cases, the "group" is not a physical concept that the adjective either does or doesn't apply to.

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