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Whether they are useful skills, important values or good habits, parents teach us a lot that we need for life.

Whether it is useful skills, important values or good habits, parents teach us a lot that we need for life.

I don't know if these two sentences are good. I'm worried that "whether it is" is followed by plural nouns. I'm also worried that "whether" is followed by more than two items.


My current knowledge:

I learned the following sentences from the following websites, and I assume they are good sentences.

https://strategiesforparents.com/whether-it-be-grammatically-correct-use-of-this-phrase/ has these two sentences:

She likes drawing, whether it be portraits, landscapes, or still life sketches.

I enjoy indoor activities, whether it be reading, writing, or cooking.

https://www.inenglishwithlove.com/blog/difference-between-if-and-whether says When introducing more than two options, use if. But with whether, we’re limited to two choices. For example,

I don’t know whether/if the meeting is on Tuesday or Thursday.

I don’t know if the meeting is on Tuesday or Thursday, or if it’s next week.

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The words that follow "to be" ("useful skills, important values or good habits") are unimportant for determining the verb's number. More important is the subject: "they" or "it".

The plural pronoun "they" is incorrect because it has no plural referent. The singular pronoun "it" is better because the referent would be "a lot", which in this sentence would be considered singular.

The two sentences that you got from the "strategies for parents" website use the subjunctive mood (specifically, what some people call the "present subjunctive"). I won't address it here, because it's really a separate issue.

Your last statement ("When introducing more than two options, use if. But with whether, we’re limited to two choices.") is incorrect. You can use either "if" or "whether" for any number of choices.

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  • "I enjoy indoor activities, whether it be reading, writing, or cooking." Activities are plural, but the author used "whether it be", not "whether they be".
    – joy2020
    Jul 2 at 23:27
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    @joy2020 That sentence is incorrect; the author should have written "whether they be". (Perhaps that sentence could be correct if "it" were considered a kind of dummy pronoun, but I think that most people would consider it incorrect.) Jul 3 at 0:02
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    In your second sentence the referent would be implied, meaning whatever our parents taught us. Yes, in that case it is common to consider it singular. (However, the entire clause "how to succeed in life" could also be condered the referent. Such a clause is always considered singular.) Jul 3 at 0:06
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    Yes, that's OK. It's a bit of a garden path (the reader won't know whether "useful skills, important values or good habits" is a subject or not until reaching the following comma), but it's certainly natural and correct. Jul 4 at 3:06
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    They might, although “they are” agrees better. Are you familiar with “notional agreement”? People may be construing “many other things” as singular. It happens. Jul 8 at 2:23

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