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Singular or plural following a list

Would I use is or are in the following sentence?

The Pohutakawa Coast, Hauraki Gulf, and Waiheke Island is/are the backdrop for our day.

If I rewrote it so the subject (backdrop) starts the sentence, then it seems to me that as it is singular, the verb should be the singular is. But as it is written above, are seems less clumsy.

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marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach, tchrist, RegDwigнt Jan 5 '13 at 13:27

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You should use are, because in your sentence you named three specific names, so if you want to use a pronoun instead of them, that pronoun is they, which cannot be used with is.

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So if I rewrote it as "The backdrop for our day…" would I still use "are"? As in "The backdrop for our day are the Pohutakawa Coast, the Huaraki Gulf, and Waiheke Island". Doesn't sound quite right to me. –  dgmburns Jan 5 '13 at 10:21
    
@DouglasBurns In that case is would be correct because you subject is backdrop, which is singular. –  Noah Jan 5 '13 at 10:25
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