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Simple question:

My apples and orange are wrong

or

My apples and orange is wrong

I am not a native English speaker, and I am having some trouble choosing between plural are or singular is for that kind of example.

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3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

It's hard to conceive of a situation in which apples and oranges could be wrong, but let's suppose there is.

Assuming you really mean apples (plural) and orange (singular), the first construction is correct.

My apples and orange are wrong.

You are speaking of multiple things, and even if both were singular

My apple and orange are wrong.

the copula (verb of being) would still be plural.

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Thank you, makes sense =D.... and sorry, apples and oranges are my favorite example objects :D –  Omega Mar 10 '11 at 4:03
    
@Omega: The phrase 'apples and oranges' is commonly used to describe differing objects. Because it is so common, it would not be incorrect the say "My 'apples and oranges' is wrong." In this case, the single quoted phrase is the subject and the verb 'to be' verb is used in its singular form. –  oosterwal Mar 11 '11 at 0:04
    
But if you had several cats and a dog, you could say that your cats and dog want to be fed, or that your cats and your dog are all waiting for you. I do not know why people think that a nearby word somehow warps the grammatical number of an entire sentence. It is like they are thinking the disjunctive case applies, like saying that my cats or my dog is likely to think this sounds funny despite its correctness. –  tchrist Jan 21 '13 at 9:27
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In most cases this comparison is done in the plural on bother sides of the equation.
i.e.

Compare apples and oranges.

This comparison is generally understood to mean that the comparison is unfair, as the two objects being compared are not similar enough.

A nice variation on this theme, that I have heard being used to accentuate the fact that dissimilar objects are being compared is:

Your comparison is invalid, you might as well be comparing apples with pigs

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I coined "apples and elephants" for the same purpose as your "apples and pigs" and having been using it ever since. –  Jon Hanna Jan 25 '13 at 23:11
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Conjunctions with conflicting case agreement are tricky, and relatively rare in written English. Johannssen (1998) in her book dedicated to this particular problem in English and Spanish gives a strong argument that when the conjuncts differ, the first (in Head-first languages) usually has agreement wit the rest of the sentence, while the others tend to some neutral or uninflected default for the language. Under her theory, which is the most comprehensive that I have found, because 'apples' is the first conjunct in your example sentence, you should use 'are', but if 'orange' is first, you should use 'is'. My personal preference would be to raise the conjunction to avoid this issue. For example:

My apples are wrong, and so is my orange.

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No way. You're recommending "My orange and apples is wrong"? Even if both "conjuncts" are singular, you should use "are": "My apple and orange are wrong." –  Kundor Feb 11 '13 at 17:28
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