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As I understand, when referring to a single concept, one would use "ham and cheese is", but "fruit and nuts are".

Now, can one have a single firework, or is/are fireworks simultaneously singular and plural?

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2 Answers 2

Fireworks is a collective plural noun which normally takes plural agreement.

The fireworks are going to be beautiful this year.

However, this noun is defective in the singular, as the singular "firework" is very rare.

Your other two examples confuse the issue. Two singular nouns connected with and normally take plural agreement:

Ham and cheese make great sandwich ingredients.

Ketchup and mustard taste good, too.

The only time that "ham and cheese" could be used with singular agreement if it's being taken as the name for a particular kind of sandwich.

The ham and cheese is great in this deli.

This doesn't really have anything to do with fireworks, which is an ordinary plural noun for the purposes of morphology and syntax.

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A Google search for "firework" "-fireworks" gives 8.5 million hits, and an Ngram shows 'firework' running at between 10% to 20% the frequency of usage of 'fireworks' - this seems to indicate that the singular is not all that rare. I have certainly heard it used (especially in safety instructions on actual fireworks). Also, it is not the synecdochical usage (ham & cheese = ham & cheese sandwich) but the 'unitary' usage that requires singular concord (at least in the UK): bacon and eggs was on the menu. –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 4 '12 at 14:20
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@EdwinAshworth You really cannot wave an ngram around like that and have it mean anything. For example, a firework display or a firework manufacturer does not really count. Try running an ngram of “this firework is” versus “these fireworks are”, and you will get a dramatically different result. –  tchrist Nov 4 '12 at 16:10
    
@EdwinAshworth, as tchrist said, I suspect that a large proportion of the putative singular "firework" instances are being used as modifiers, which generally require singular morphology. And I fail to see any difference between the "synecdochial" and "unitary" in your examples --- perhaps you could explain that? –  JSBձոգչ Nov 4 '12 at 19:46
    
@tchrist A Google comparison of a firework was with some fireworks were has a rather higher frequency for the former. AHDEL and Collins definitions of the relevant senses of banger and Catherine Wheel both use the singular, firework. Answering the original question - one can certainly have a single firework; the singular may be less commonly used than the plural, but is not 'very rare'; and the plural may be used as a count noun (three fireworks) which is admittedly rather unusual, or as a quasi non-count noun (some fireworks). –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 8 '12 at 23:51
    
@ JSBձոգչ I thought I had explained. 'A ham and cheese', compare 'a BLT', is shorthand for 'a sandwich made using (among other things) ham and cheese' - this is a synecdoche. Compare 'England' for 'the English cricket team' etc. 'Ham and cheese' cannot be used out of context to mean a sandwich. 'Bacon and eggs' is, however, a well-known phrase - virtually a compound noun - that stands on its own. When used to mean the meal rather than the individual components, it takes singular concord: 'Bacon and eggs is too fatty for me.' see: editavenue.com/writingtip.asp?cid=93306 –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 9 '12 at 0:10

Fireworks is a plural noun with an 's' on the end, so it is plural fireworks are.

The same applies to your fruit and nuts are example. The 'nuts' is plural. In your ham and cheese is example, both nouns are singular so it could go either way.

Ngram because I enjoy them.

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