Does the verb after 'a set of + plural noun' agree with 'set' or 'noun'? For example:

'Law is a set of rules that govern/governs society.'


2 Answers 2


In a main clause where "a set of rules" is the subject, the verb should be singular to agree with "set" (the head of the noun phrase):

A set of rules governs society.

In your example, you build a relative clause that can refer to either "set or "rules". Hence, both are possible with a minute shift in meaning.

Singular, the verb agreeing with "set":

...a set of rules which governs socitey


There is a set of rules, and this set governs society.

Plural, the verb agreeing with "rules":

...a set of rules which govern society


There is a set of rules, and these rules govern society.


It should be followed by govern because it doesn't follow a set but rules, which is plural.

  • I did not vote you down, but your example is not optimal. Try it with "The Indian Nation is a group of peoples who want(s) to gain a voice in the community"
    – mplungjan
    Sep 24, 2013 at 5:57
  • @mplungjan Changed it to guys.
    – Noah
    Sep 24, 2013 at 6:23
  • Ditto with mplungjan. Group can be treated as a plural and there's is simply a dummy marker. But in the OP's example, the initial Law is does not function like There's and set is generally treated as a single unit.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 24, 2013 at 6:47
  • Andrew is correct. "The bloodhound gang, is a group of guys who want(s) to talk to you" - there is an expression in grammar I cannot remember where the s before the word in question begs plural
    – mplungjan
    Sep 24, 2013 at 6:48

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