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The park and surrounding area was off limits to all.

The park and surrounding area were off limits to all.

Grammarly says 'were':

'It seems that the singular verb 'was' does not agree with the plural compound subject 'The park and surrounding area'.

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  • Tell us why Grammarly says "were".
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 18:54
  • Please tell us a bit more. What do you think is right and why? Does Grammarly say why the first is wrong? Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 19:03
  • @Alucard I've added Grammarly's comment to your question. In future, please include information like that in the question. Thanks!
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 21:17
  • Grammarly is just dumb software applying simple rules that aren't always appropriate. Both was and were are fine in the cited context Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 13:27

4 Answers 4

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It really depends on whether you consider "the park" and "the surrounding area" to be two things. Or if you consider it to be a single region.

It is easier to parse this as two things so use "were". It isn't impossible to imagine someone correctly using "was".

Generally, British English speakers are more likely to follow the underlying sense (which might be singular or plural) and American speakers are more likely to follow the grammatical structure (which is plural).

Finally, if "and surrounding area" is made parenthetical, then "was" is correct. "The park (and surrounding area) was ..."

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  • +1 But "is make parenthetical" <--typo, presumably? Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 23:06
  • I'm intensely aware that at least some Americans can be very literal-minded about things like treating a couple as a singular verb subject in some bizarre contexts (A married couple went out for a meal on its anniversary). But I see no significant change when I switch between AmE / BrE corpuses on this singular/plural usage chart. Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 13:39
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If you want to consider “the park and the surrounding area” as a whole entity then I’d say use - “the park along with the surrounding area”. This is when the subject agrees with the verb “was”. If not, then you have to use “were” because “the park” AND “the surrounding area” are two things.

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Grammarly is correct. If you rephrased it as:

The park was off limits. And the surrounding area was off limits, too.

Then you can use 'was'. But since you have both, it is not singular, and you must use 'were'.

It may be more obvious with a longer list:

"The park, the surrounding area, and the entire street were off limits."

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    But when you have a coordination as subject (i.e. two noun phrases joined by and), the coordination can take singular agreement when it can be conceptualised as a single thing. Here the park and the surrounding area can be thought of as a single large area. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 19:14
  • Creative theory, but you are over-thinking it. Grammatically, two things are mentioned, so the grammar is all that matters. There isn't anything in this sentence that conceptualizes them as a single thing.
    – a101010
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 22:09
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    No, what the speakers of the language do is all that matters. Nothing else does. Learners want to know what people who use the language do. They don't want to know about what posters on stack exchange think they should do. [And the grammar is the system that underlies what people do. It is not the rules that people think people should stick to!] Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 22:18
  • I can tell I can't convince you. But as a native speaker, I do not think there is anything in the sentence that would permit combining the two. It sounds very weird to me.
    – a101010
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 22:25
  • As a native speaker, it doesn't to me! Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 22:33
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When the subject of a sentence is more than one thing, the verb is in the plural form. Consider what pronoun you would use if you replaced the subjects:

Jack and Jill (they) are friends.

The park and surrounding area (they) were off limits to all.

The horse-and-buggy mode of transport (it) was replaced by the automobile.

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