Skip to content

Singular or plural?

This week we’ll revisit confusing agreement examples. Some of them are examples where both are allowed, while some are errors due to interference from another language.

Test yourself. Which are only singular or plural? Which could be both?

  1. For my vacation next week, my trousers (pants [US]) need/needs taking in. Do you know of a good tailor near here?
  2. The scissors is/are in the top drawer.
  3. The news today is/are very depressing. Have you heard it/them?  
  4. A steady stream of volunteers is/are signing up for blood donations.
  5. His family has/have confirmed that he is suffering from dementia.

Answer key

  1. Only plural. My trousers/pants need taking in. The English look at the cuffs of the trousers, so they use the plural, whereas the French look at the waist, and therefore “le pantalon” is singular.
  2. Only plural. The scissors are in the top drawer.
  3. Only singular. The news today is very depressing. Have you heard it?
  4. Both. A steady stream of volunteers is signing up. The subject is “A steady stream”. (from BBC). But many would write “are signing up”, as they would focus on the volunteers.
  5. Both.


Carol Waites (PhD)

Presentation/editing by Christina O’Shaughnessy (editor)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *