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A student wrote the following sentence in an essay:

Things such as software and workbooks are included in the textbook packages, which causes a significant increase in price.

My question is regarding the verb causes.

My opinion is that the sentence should read "...which cause a significant increase..." One of my peers disagrees with my assessment.

My reasoning is that the subject in this sentence is things, therefore the verb should reflect that.

Am I wrong?

Also, please ignore any other issues the sentence may have. I'm simply concerned with this one point.

Thank you in advance!

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    No, it's singular. The subject of cause is which. That's a relative pronoun for a non-restrictive relative clause modifying the entire previous clause Things such as software and workbooks are included in the textbook packages. Clausal noun phrases are singular by definition: For him to leave now is inadvisable" (not *_are inadvisable_); _Bill's practicing the tuba every day_ *is a nuisance (not *are a nuisance). Since its antecedent is singular, which is singular, and therefore so is causes. – John Lawler Mar 24 '14 at 19:23
  • @John Lawler - John, why don't you put this in an answer? It's too informative to rest in a comment. – Canis Lupus Mar 24 '14 at 19:33
  • I don't see any difference. Nobody can find anything here anyway, and most people don't bother looking. – John Lawler Mar 24 '14 at 19:40
  • @John Lawler Formatting works more the way you'd expect it to. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 24 '14 at 19:57
  • @John Lawler - the only difference I see is that when a less complete or nearly correct answer gets posted, your advice is overlooked. But I see FumbleFingers took care of it this time. – Canis Lupus Mar 24 '14 at 20:45
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Because the only other answer here is completely wrong, I'm copying John Lawler's comment...

No, it's singular. The subject of cause is which. That's a relative pronoun for a non-restrictive relative clause modifying the entire previous clause Things such as software and workbooks are included in the textbook packages. Clausal noun phrases are singular by definition: For him to leave now is inadvisable (not are inadvisable); Bill's practising the tuba every day is a nuisance (not are a nuisance). Since its antecedent is singular, which is singular, and therefore so is causes.


If OP wishes to make which refer to things [such as software and workbooks], all he needs to do is move it six words to the left...

Things such as software and workbooks, which are included in the textbook packages, cause a significant increase in price.

  • You're after a job as his agent. If this answer is accepted, you have to donate the rep points to charity. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 24 '14 at 19:56
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    Perfectly all right with me. I got too many rep points as it is. I'm not a competitive person and I don't like the voting system here at all; that's another reason I prefer comments. – John Lawler Mar 24 '14 at 21:16
  • @JohnLawler Says the man with 44K points. ;-) – David M Mar 24 '14 at 21:28
  • There's no way I can get rid of them except by posting bonuses and I don't have any questions I want to post here. – John Lawler Mar 24 '14 at 21:31
  • @Edwin: My net position on this question is -1, because I downvoted the incorrect answer and marked this one Community Wiki. I'd give that -1 to John if I could (I know I'd have to do that a lot of times to relieve him of his burden, but it would probably be quicker than hoping to find enough of his answers that I could reasonably downvote! :) – FumbleFingers Mar 24 '14 at 22:39
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Things such as software and workbooks are included in the textbook packages, which causes a significant increase in price.

John Lawler has given a comprehensive analysis of the sentence structure, but for those not familiar with terms like "non-restrictive relative clause", there is a simpler explanation that might make more immediate sense.

It isn't the software or the workbooks that cause the increase in price, it's the fact of their inclusion in the packages that causes it. So, when determining the entity that "which" connects back to, you should see that invisible word "fact" as replacing everything in the first part of the sentence, and then you can see that it must be singular. To make it even clearer, mentally re-write it as The fact that things such as software and workbooks are included in the textbook packages causes...

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