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I am very confused by this article title in New Yorker:

How Much Do Pacquiao-Mayweather Tickets Cost?

Shouldn't it be "How much does"? Why do?

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The answer is

How much do Pacquiao-Mayweather tickets cost? (Better off without capitalization when you're asking a question from your friend)

The misunderstanding, I believe, is caused by these two guys: Pacquaio and Mayweather.

If you run into this kind of problem, I suggest

1. Finding out what the verb is pertaining to:

Isn't the sentence like this?

How much does/do ____ cost?

We need to fill that blank with either something or somethings. To find out which, do the next step.

2. Omitting the elements of the noun phrase:

What are the words in this phrase? Pacquiao-Mayweather and tickets. We eliminate both. The one that makes sense, has the head of the phrase.

How much do * Pacquiao-Mayweather cost?

How much do tickets cost?

You see, the price is about the tickets. So, tickets is the head of the noun phrase.1

3. Applying the subject-verb agreement:

Verbs, generally, follow (or agree with) the nouns they're pertaining to. In this step, after we have identified the head of the noun phrase, we have to write a verb that agrees with it.

Tickets is a plural noun. So, the verb needs to be plural.

How much do/does tickets cost?

Done like a charm! 2 :)


1: If you want a more comprehensive way of determining the head of noun phrases, visit here.
2: If things are still vague, you can leave me a comment.

  • 2. Notice that "Pacquiau-Maywether" is acting as a modifier for "tickets"; thus the names are NOT nouns and could NOT be the subject for "cost". We don't have to try them out to see if they "make sense" as the "head". – Brian Hitchcock May 3 '15 at 11:15
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    @Brian The name(s) certainly is a noun (word class / part of speech) that modifies tickets. What else would it be? What is office in office building? – Jim Reynolds May 5 '15 at 4:37
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    Modifier is a function, noun is a class. Being a modifier does not mean something isn't a noun. – snailcar May 5 '15 at 5:28
  • Okay, let's just say the names are not acting as nouns, and therefore could not be the subject for "cost". happy now? – Brian Hitchcock May 5 '15 at 5:55

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