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Suppose we have to fill in the blank with a correct verb form:

Uprooting plants ________ like uprooting your life.

Options:

a) is
b) are
c) had been
d) was

I think that the answer ought to be a) since the verb will refer to the act of uprooting but the answer is given as b). Where am I going wrong?

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    I'm with you! Little kids are like little devils. This way, it takes are. I'm trying but not getting an example where the plural are is used for a verb. There has to be noun in such construction. – Maulik V Sep 3 '14 at 5:55
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    Yes, the main word is uprooting, so the answer should be is (option A). I'm puzzled at the key giving option B as the correct answer. – CowperKettle Sep 3 '14 at 5:59
  • Are you sure you didn't misread the question? All of these verbs are correct except b, so maybe the question was: which of these choices is incorrect. – Peter Shor Sep 12 '15 at 19:51
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In OP's context, uprooting is a gerund - a verb form functioning as a noun (so in this case, it denotes the action of "to uproot").

Although uprooting can be used transitively (so it can take an object, such as plants, or your life here), this doesn't change the fact that syntactically, the gerund uprooting is a singular noun. If we take a slightly different example we see that sometimes it's possible to use a pluralised -ing form (but I suspect the -ings forms are probably not gerunds, since they can't be used with a direct object)...

1: Beating children is barbaric
2: Beating the Prince is barbaric
3: Beating is barbaric
4: Beatings are barbaric
5: * Beatings children are barbaric (not valid English)

From this it should be clear that regardless of whether a direct object (children, the Prince, here) is present, and regardless of whether the object is singular or plural, the -ing form is always singular unless explicitly pluralised by appending -s.


TL;DR: The plural verb form (are) can never be valid in OP's context. The others are all syntactically valid, but mean different things. In practice, contexts where you might use past (was) or past perfect (had been) are contrived and unlikely, so if a single "best" choice must be made, the answer is is.

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(B) is definitely wrong. The subject of the sentence, Uprooting, is singular.

(C) is also wrong, due to the improper tense progression. Past perfect should be used for an action preceding another action in the past, and I don't see any other past tense verb here.

(D) is grammatically possible, but doesn't make much sense.

(A) is correct: this is a simile, in simple present tense, agreeing with a third-person singular subject.

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  • "Back in '75 my family was in landscaping, and we took a great deal of personal pride in our designs. Nothing was more frustrating than when we'd go take a look a year later, and the customer had brought in another crew to change everything. Uprooting plants was like uprooting your life." – HostileFork says dont trust SE Sep 3 '14 at 16:11
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IMO, the answer should be is. That said, I'm with you.

The reason is the verb is referring to a verb 'uproot'. I think in construction like this, to have are, we must put noun at the first place of the sentence.

Little kids are like little devils

Little kids -adj+noun is possible taking the verb are but in no case, a verb at the first place of such sentence can have the verb is. verb-ing will be followed by is.

Uprooting, the verb is at the first place which is singular and thus, the answer should be is.

In that sense, was is also grammatically correct but having is in the options, this becomes no choice.

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