Which of the following is correct (and, most importantly, why)?

  1. A glimmer of light after what have been long weeks of darkness.
  2. A glimmer of light after what has been long weeks of darkness.

(The sentences are merely an example, I would hope for some explanation of the rule...)


  • Keep it simple and don't get tied in knots. A glimmer of light after long weeks of darkness. Oct 23, 2023 at 23:14
  • Yes, just lose the what have been.
    – Lambie
    Oct 24, 2023 at 0:18
  • @WeatherVane The OP is asking about verb agreement in that particular structure. If they omit that structure, then they can't get their question answered. There's no reason to think that the OP wants a natural version of this exact sentence, especially after their last sentence, and every reason to believe they want an explanation of how to understand what the verb agrees with.
    – gotube
    Oct 24, 2023 at 5:26

2 Answers 2


It's possible to understand those long weeks of darkness as countable (what have been) or as a stretch of time in which the weeks seemed to go by slowly (what has been).

Long weeks of darkness are no fun.

Long weeks of darkness is no fun.


Great question Lonnk!

Which word to use is much easier to keep straight when you think about what is missing from the second sentence.

"Have" in the first sentence refers directly to the long weeks.

"Has" in the second sentence refers to the period of time which is described by the weeks, even though the sentence doesn't directly mention time.

Since it is a singular period of time (covering weeks), we use the singular "has" instead of the plural "have".

  • Aren't all 'periods of time' singular? Oct 24, 2023 at 6:53
  • Yes, every period of time is singular, so we use singular verbs.
    – SomeGuy69
    Oct 24, 2023 at 15:34
  • But why do people say 'five years have passed'? Oct 24, 2023 at 17:27
  • Because they're directly referring to the years. You would use the past-tense singular to refer to the time during those years. "It was a difficult period during those five years."
    – SomeGuy69
    Oct 24, 2023 at 19:10

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