To emphasise a particular information in a sentence we put a what clause followed by the appropriate form of the verb be:

  1. We are looking for volunteers.
    » What we are looking for is volunteers.
  2. I really like action films.
    » What I really like is action films.

Is this a formal way by using is instead of are? Or is it because if we used two are at the end would it be redundant?


2 Answers 2


@CopperKettle's answer in the linked question is definitely relevant here. Quoted below:

"What makes her laugh are dirty jokes."

The meaning: We hear her laughing right now. We both know that she is laughing right now because she has just heard some jokes. I want to say to you that in my view the jokes she is laughing to are dirty.

"What makes her laugh is dirty jokes."

The meaning: When she hears dirty jokes, she usually laughs.

Some trustworthy-looking references are provided for this. I think this sounds pretty reasonable in terms of "strictly correct" grammar.

However, what I can say as a native speaker of American English is that the examples with "are" always sound wrong to me. When "what" is used as a pronoun, it is always singular. Note that the verb agrees with the subject, so when "what" is not the subject, the verb may be plural. For example:

What we are looking for is volunteers.


Volunteers are what we are looking for.

When phrased as a question, "what" does not function as the subject:

What are you looking for?


You are looking for what?

One of the things to recognize here is that you can say "[singular noun] is [plural noun]" or "[plural noun] are [singular noun]". It is not necessary for both nouns to agree. For example:

The thing I like most about France is the pastries.

Games are my favorite way to pass the time.


The use of plural verb are/were before plural nouns, such as are in the sentences presented, is common, though some people say we should use "is'.

I think the use of " is" is more appropriate grammatically. Look at the sentence taken from Longman.

What matters is the British people and British jobs.

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