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I wonder how to conjugate a verb when the subject is a word followed by (s). For example, which of the following two sentence(s) is/are correct:

  1. Which program(s) are needed?
  2. Which program(s) is needed?

?

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  • This is a basic question that can be answered by reference to any book or website on english grammar. Just look up (or google) "english agreement between subject and verb" Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:13
  • @PeterJennings The subject is "program(s)". Is it plural or singular? Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:14
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    Ah sorry , I too misunderstood your question . I think the corrected answer below covers it. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:23
  • This problem can't be unique to English, it would seem to affect any language that has agreement between words. How would you solve it in your language(s)
    – James K
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:40
  • @JamesK I've used English >99.9% of the time over the past 10 years. I don't recall how my native language handles that case. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:46

1 Answer 1

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Which program is needed?

Which programs are needed?

Which program(s) is/are needed?

When the subject is plural, the verb must also agree in plural form. If the subject's number is ambiguous, the verb must also be ambiguous to accommodate it. The "is/are" form has become quite common; however, if one wishes to be more formal, then list "program" and "programs" separately, and whichever comes last, match the verb to that.

For example:

Which program or programs are needed? (my preference)

Which programs or program is needed?

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  • Thanks. The subject is "program(s)". Is it plural? Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:12
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    Ah. I was not understanding your use of the parenthesized 's'. If you want the subject to go either way, you need the verb to accommodate it, i.e. "Which program(s) is/are needed?"
    – Biblasia
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:14
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    I have updated the answer, as I now understand the question better.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 23:20

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