Agreement of subject and verb



There are certain words that sometimes seem to take a singular verb, and sometimes a plural verb, or, perhaps either the singular or plural is always right, but I'm not sure which one is! For example, do we say the Everglades is or the Everglades are? Statistics is or statistics are? Pantyhose is or pantyhose are?

Ridgewood, NJ


I'll tackle these examples one at a time, and perhaps the individual answers will give you some idea of why these are perplexing.

1. The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin, 1996) defines "an everglade" as a tract of usually submerged swampland. So, that defines a singular noun and "everglades" would be plural, requiring a plural verb to agree. However, "The Everglades" is also the name of a national park, and that causes people to refer to it as a singular entity. Thus, we are left with a choice, depending on whether we are thinking of swamps (plural) or a park (singular and capitalized) when we use the word.

2. When the word "statistics" names a field of mathematical study, it is singular—just like "physics," "economics," or "mathematics." But when it means groups of data to be analyzed, then "statistics" (or "stats") are numbers and, therefore, plural. Here are examples:

Statistics is the collecting, organizing, and analyzing of data.

The stats on that ballplayer are amazing.

3. The word "hose," meaning stockings, is a plural word—like the word "pants." To speak of hose or pantyhose in the singular, you'd need a phrase like "a pair of hose." I don't recall hearing anyone yet speak of "a pantyhose" or "a pant," but that might become a trend someday.

Barbara Matthies


About "the Everglades" as a national park in Florida, it is referred to sometimes with a singular verb, and sometimes with a plural verb. Both examples below are from the same article in the Miami Herald of October 11, 2002:


“There is this misperception that when the Everglades Act passed, the Everglades were saved,” said Mary Munson, South Florida director for the National Parks Conservation Association.


"If the natural underdog in this process is the Everglades, then the Everglades is going to lose every time," said Shannon Estenoz, national co-chair for the Everglades Coalition and South Florida director for the World Wildlife Fund.

In sentence (a) the speaker seems to be referring to all the lands, different pieces of land, as “the Everglades.” In sentence (b), the speaker is referring to “the Everglades” as one unit.

This illustrates how imperfect and often inconsistent the English language can be.

About "pantyhose":

In a store, we would probably ask:

“Where is the pantyhose?”

And we'd get a reply like:

“Over there.”
“The pantyhose is on the first floor.”

Similarly, it would be hose is, or hosiery is, on the first floor.

But what about when you find the pantyhose hanging in the bathroom? Then we'd probably say:

“Your pantyhose are hanging in the bathroom! Please take them away!”

So it seems that for specific pantyhose, hose, or hosiery, the word is plural but that in stores, to denote a general product, it's singular.


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