There is this quote:

Expectations are the thief of joy.

Why is "thief" used in the sentence above and not "thieves"?

  • 1
    The part of the sentence that notices whether the subject is singular or plural is only the first auxiliary verb. What comes after the verb does not agree with the subject. English verbs only agree with their subjects, and subjects agree only with their verbs. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


Because the thing after the verb is a single entity. This often happens with verbs of identifying or equivalence:

My children are a delight.

Displaced people are a significant problem in the modern world.

Unwanted presents are a nuisance.

my responsibilities are a burden to me.

You could use plurals in the second half of any of these, but it is not usual to do so, and if you did, people would probably interpret as saying that they were several different kinds of thief, or delight, or problem, or nuisance, or burden.

  • The expression was new to me, but on googling it I discovered that someone has written a book called Expectations are the thieves of joy! Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 11:59

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