I'm learning English and I'm having trouble on understanding which word I should use to avoid any subject-verb agreement issue.

Which one is correct?

The counting of votes are easy.

The counting of votes is easy.

  • I would tend to say "The counting of votes is easy." but apparently, there's quite some confusion over it... Also, this is related. – Jerry May 24 '13 at 16:12
  • Thanks for answering. I pretty much agree with you about "The counting of votes is easy" but do you think that "counting (verb)" can be used as the subject of the sentence? If so, that's the reason why "is" is much more preferable than "are"? – Elton John Jonson May 24 '13 at 17:06
  • 1
    "counting" here is being used as a noun, and "The counting of votes" altogether forms the subject of the sentence. You have much more detail in the second link in my first comment, but from what I can see, you can treat "counting of votes" as a quantified collective (considering them as a group), and since you have 1 group, you use singular, that is, "is". – Jerry May 24 '13 at 17:22
  • And now I'm enlightened. Thank you for your time answering my question. =) – Elton John Jonson May 24 '13 at 17:42
  • 2
    @Jerry, there is no confusion over Elton's sentence, "is" is the only valid option. In the link you included, the confusion stems from the fact that the phrase "multitude of" stands for a number: "the multitude of insects" is comparable to "1000 insects". It's not clear if "the multitude of insects" is singular or plural. In the case of "counting" there is no such problem, the phrase is definitely singular. – Ilya Kogan May 24 '13 at 21:30

Counting is a gerund, a noun in the form of the present participle of a verb (or a form that is derived from a verb but that functions as a noun). A gerund is usually considered singular, and the used verb is the one you would use for the third singular person.

Eating apples is good for your health.

Playing helps children to learn.

Playing Pac-man was one of my preferred activities when I was a teenager.

  • "Playing Pac-man was" with a specific past time reference. Has been has present reference. – StoneyB on hiatus May 24 '13 at 19:27
  • 1
    I first wrote was but then thought the present perfect tense was better; I guess I should have used the past perfect, eventually. :) – kiamlaluno May 24 '13 at 19:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.