If I want to talk about some people in general who want to be X. Is the X should be plural or not? I have this doubt since I remember there's a grammar book explains about this (I couldn't find which book is) and in English, according to the book, this form is used sometimes:

Plural subject + to be/to have + singular

In the examples below which one is grammatically correct and if there is only one, does the other one still sound natural and is it used in a daily conversation?

  1. I don't know why people want to be a teacher.
  2. I don't know why people want to be teachers.

2 Answers 2


Some people want to be teachers, other don't.

I don't know why people want to be teachers.

I don't know anyone (or someone) wants to be a teacher.

The one with the plural noun people doesn't work with the singular noun teacher.


Both are correct, but the second is more natural. "people" can be singular too, but it can sound off even though it is grammatically correct. plural and plural sounds better.

  • I much prefer 2.
    – James K
    Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 5:38
  • Oh, do I change my answer? @JamesK seeing as you are much more experienced than me :P
    – DialFrost
    Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 5:39
  • A claim like " 'I don't know why people want to be a teacher' is correct" would need authoritative support on ELU. The distributive singular is widely used, but Orwell advises the avoidance of anything sounding outlandish. Pairing 'people' with 'a teacher' is very incongruous. Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 14:32
  • Agreed -- I would reject the singular here. But compare "I don't know why everyone wants to be a teacher" Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 4:34

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