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Is the following correct?

Can I get some chocolate for myself? Yes, you can but not much.
Is two bars OK?

Is there any rule to explain the sentence above?

The dialogue's taken from Grammar Textbook Round-Up Level #3.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Is two bars okay?

Usually, that is acceptable. And often the singular verb might be preferred in the type of sentence like yours — but it can also depend on the context.

Notice that a declarative version could be "Two bars is okay". The subject "two bars" is a measure phrase, and so, usually, the speaker can use singular subject-verb agreement in this type of sentence. Often, the singular override is strongly preferred. (Sometimes, such as when the predicative complement is a singular noun phrase, the override is obligatory.)

Similar declarative clause examples could be:

  • Three eggs is plenty.
  • Five miles is rather more than I want to walk this afternoon.

Interrogative clauses that are somewhat similar to those above two could be:

  • Is three eggs plenty?
  • Is five miles more than what he wants to walk this afternoon?

For many sentences using a measure phrase as subject, the speaker has the choice between using singular or plural verb — though, often, the singular override is strongly preferred (though, again, context is a strong factor).

The "rule" may be called the measure override. For more info, there's the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL), section "18.3 Further overrides and alternations", section 'a' — Measure phrases, page 504.

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To my mind, this answer serves only to confuse the OP, she will probably think that verb agreement is arbitrable. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 4 at 8:00
    
@Mari-LouA: As far as I know, this is the type of reason that grammar usage manuals provide in order to explain why singular override (for subject-verb agreement) is acceptable or preferred for sentences similar to the OP's. If you look in your favorite grammar sources for the topic of measure phrases and verb agreement, I'd expect that you'll find an explanation similar to what I've given in my post. –  F.E. Feb 4 at 8:06
    
Well... your edited version is improved and less confusing. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 4 at 8:08
    
thank you so very much, @F.E. i guess i'll have to buy this book since i don't have it yet, but your answer is exactly what i've been looking for. –  Yukatan Feb 4 at 8:34
    
@Yukatan: Ah, yes, that CGEL is most excellent, but unfortunately costs around 250 USA dollars or so. If you want immediate info on the measure override topic, you might be able to get some useful info from the internet (and wikipedia); but of course, you have to be careful of that type of info. :) –  F.E. Feb 4 at 8:37

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