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I have come across this sentence:

1 $4 million worth of souvenirs and gift items have been produced for the event.

If I am not mistaken, the "have been produced" refers to the word "worth".

As I know "worth" as a noun is uncountable and uncountable nouns need singular verbs.

Is the usage of the plural verb "have" this sentence correct, or should it be replaced with "has"?

The confusing thing is that, for example, the following sentence has exactly the same structure of the above sentence:

2 The merchandise of customers has been delivered.

In both of these sentences we have the same structure: noun phrase (the merchandise/$4 million worth) + of + noun phrase(customers/souvenirs and gift items) + verb(has been delivered/have been produced)

I is obvious for me that in the sentence #2 the "has been delivered" refers to "The merchandise", which is the first noun phrase (the noun before "of").

But why should the "have been produced" in the sentence #1 refer to the noun phrase "souvenirs and gift items", which is the second noun phrase (the noun phrase after "of")?


For more clarification about the "worth", consider also the following sentence:

3 The worth of souvenirs and gift items is/are $4 million.

Should I use "is" or "are" in the sentence #3?

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  • 1
    No: the number of the NP is determined by the noun phrase that is complement of the preposition "of". In your example, the complement is the plural noun phrase "souvenirs and gift items", so the plural "have" is correct. Compare "$4 million worth of jewellery was stolen".
    – BillJ
    Oct 8, 2022 at 9:15
  • 1
    No, 'have been produced' refers to 'souvenirs and gift items'. They will bring in $4million if they are all sold. Oct 8, 2022 at 9:17
  • I don't get it. For example in "The merchandise of customers have been delivered", does the "have been produce" refer to "customers"? Shouldn't we say "The merchandise of customers has been delivered", where "has" refer to "merchandise"?
    – alireza
    Oct 8, 2022 at 9:33
  • In that example, it is the singular head noun "merchandise" that determines the number of the whole NP. But in your original example, we can say that "worth" is "number transparent" in that the number of the whole NP is determined not by the head but by the noun phrase that is complement of the preposition "of".
    – BillJ
    Oct 8, 2022 at 11:31

3 Answers 3

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$4 million worth of souvenirs and gift items have been produced for the event.

When you say, "If I am not mistaken, the "have been produced" refers to the word "worth"", I'm going to assume you mean "worth" is the direct object of "produced".

You may be right, depending on whether you're thinking about grammar as an English teacher or through Linguistics.

See BillJ's answer for how Linguistics sees this structure.

From an ESL teacher's point of view, "souvenirs and gift items" is the head of the noun phrase, and "$4 million worth of" is an attributive adjective, so "souvenirs and gift items" is the direct object of "produced".


I don't believe "worth" can be used as a bare noun, like in your sentence 3. You might prefer "value".

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  • There is this sentence on Cambridge Dictionary (dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/worth) : "The estimated worth of the plastics and petrochemical industry is about $640 billion." So I guess I can use it as a bare noun. Right?
    – alireza
    Oct 8, 2022 at 15:18
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    @alireza It's not bare with "estimated". I mean just the word "worth" all by itself.
    – gotube
    Oct 8, 2022 at 15:31
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    Yes you're right.
    – alireza
    Oct 8, 2022 at 15:49
  • Not quite, I'm afraid. Please see my answer.
    – BillJ
    Oct 8, 2022 at 17:42
  • @BillJ Thanks. I had a hunch. I've removed my guesswork from my answer.
    – gotube
    Oct 8, 2022 at 19:30
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$4 million worth of souvenirs and gift items have been produced for the event.

Genitives of this kind measure value, with "worth" being the head and "$4 million" a genitive noun phrase, thus four million dollars' worth.

"Worth" is best analysed here as a noun taking an of complement. It belongs with the number-transparent nouns, where the number of the whole noun phrase is determined not by the head "worth" but by the noun phrase that is complement to the preposition "of". Here, the complement is the plural noun phrase "souvenirs and gift items", so plural "have" is correct.

Compare $4 million worth of jewellery was stolen, where the complement to "of" is the singular noun "jewellery" requiring the singular verb "was".

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The way I understand this, is

$4 million worth of souvenirs and gift items have been produced for the event.

Q. What has/have (can use either) been produced?

A. Souvenirs and gift items.

There you have it, plural NP.

The worth of souvenirs and gift items is/are $4 million.

Q. What are we considering, "worth" or the "souvenirs and gift items" themselves?

A. Worth.

Worth is singular, so we will have to use "is".

"Merchandise" is uncountable (hence singular), sentence 2 is correct.

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