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If the subject in a clause is singular, the verb form should be singular, and if the subject is plural, the verb form should be plural. So far, so good. But what about subjects that coordinate two activities – which verb form should I use with those?

Examples:

Discussion and reflection is/are part of the course

Preparation for and participation in seminars is/are mandatory

Cooking your own food and then eating it is/are very satisfying

Strictly speaking, the subjects in these examples are plural, but I can't help feeling that the versions with a singular verb sound better than those with a plural verb. Is my gut wrong here, or am I right that the singular verb is preferable? And if so, how is this explained from a grammar point of view, seeing that the subjects are plural?

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    The examples are rather contrived. The last one would be better expressed as a single event: "Cooking and eating your own food is very satisfying", because that is what is meant. It's tempting in the first two to make the verb agree with singular noun before it, but it depends whether the nouns are a single unit. For example "Health and Safety is part of the course". Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 20:53
  • @WeatherVane Yes - your version of the last example is much better! The question remains though, doesn't it? I mean, the subject still indicates two things – on the one hand cooking, and on the other hand eating – no?
    – Gerda
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 21:10
  • @WeatherVane And yes, I see how some seemingly plural subjects can still be conceived of as a single unit, as in your example with "health and safety", but in the examples I give, I'm not sure...
    – Gerda
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 21:13
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    The first could be a connected pair, the second are two different things, which are mandatory. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 21:28
  • Please don't change the question on-the-fly, SE isn't a rolling tutorial. Doing that breaks the sense of the comments. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 21:29

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Discussion and reflection are part of the course

Since the discussion and reflection are separate here. One subject is "discussion", and the other is "reflection".

Preparation for and participation in seminars is mandatory

Here, "Preparation for and participation in seminars" is one subject, but it could be made into two like this:

Preparation for seminars and participation in seminars are mandatory.

But that phrasing feels clunky to me.

Cooking your own food and then eating it is very satisfying

Here, "Cooking your own food and then eating it" is one subject.

I can't explain why (sorry!). That's all I can say as a native speaker without a formal background in the rules/mechanics of the language.

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  • Thank you! Hm, not sure whose answer I should go with though – yours or WeatherVane's, who said the verb in the seminar example should be "are"...
    – Gerda
    Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 18:51
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    I could easily be wrong. After all, I don't have a formal background in english.
    – starball
    Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 20:03

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