If I have an item, combined with another item, is it still a singular subject in the sentence? For example:

  • This paper, combined with some glue, makes for an afternoon of art projects.
  • This paper, combined with some glue, make for an afternoon of art projects.

All of my experience tells me that it should be the first, but I have multiple people arguing for the second.

2 Answers 2


This paper, combined with some glue, makes for an afternoon of art projects.

This is the correct version because you've necessarily put the the "combined with glue" between parenthetical commas. The agreement is then between the subject "this paper" and the verb "makes."

On the other hand you could also write "The paper and glue make for an afternoon of art projects." In this case there is no parenthetical clause and paper and glue combine to make a plural subject (they make).

  • 1
    But you could equally make up a spurious argument that it "should" be plural because, despite the commas, the intention is that both elements are combined...! Aug 20, 2013 at 20:10
  • Welcome to English Language and Usage - Stack Exchange! You are more than welcome to link to your website in your user profile; however, I've removed it from your posts as general etiquette on Stack Exchange is to not leave signatures in posts.
    – waiwai933
    Aug 21, 2013 at 5:58
  • What @Neil is hinting at is actually not a theoretical exercise, or a "made-up spurious argument" even, but a rather common phenomenon that has a name, notional agreement or notional concord. (The textbook example probably being "a lot of people are X", where the verb is plural even though a lot quite clearly is singular.) So it'd be interesting to analyze how widespread it is with parentheticals such as the one in this question here.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 22, 2013 at 10:01
  • @RegDwighт I actually hate terms like 'notional agreement'. There are different possible syntactic structures, each of which results in a particular verb agreement. It's difficult to see why either one is more or less 'notional' than the other (what does that even really mean in grammatical terms?) Aug 22, 2013 at 16:02
  • 1
    @Neil a fair point to make, but frankly we won't find many terms in any field that make much sense upon closer inspection. Think of them as naming variables in programming, or placeholders in general, or in fact any word in any language for that matter. It doesn't really matter much if we call it "notional agreement" or "habrababra agreement" or "clueless catnip" or "Susan1978", as long as we know what that label refers to.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 22, 2013 at 16:12

The sentence per se talks about what 'this paper' does:

This paper (…) makes for an afternoon of art projects.

In the context, how it does is secondary:

combined with some glue

which is why that part is parenthesized.

This paper, combined with some glue, makes for an afternoon of art projects.

This verb refers to 'the paper' alone and therefore is in the singular. Note the verb combined, also referring to 'the paper'.

There is no reason for a plural verb unless the intended meaning is different:

This paper, and some glue, make for an afternoon of art projects.

We are now talking about paper and glue together.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.