5

Making adult decisions are/is really not fun.

What is the proper answer and why? My gut says "is" but I can't explain why.

13

You are probably confused by adult decisions, which is plural. But that is irrelevant, as it is not the subject of the sentence. It would be if the sentence were

Adult decisions are really not fun.

Then, the plural are would be appropriate. However, in the sentence

Making adult decisions is really not fun.

the subject is "making adult decisions". The head of that phrase, making, is not plural. Thus, the phrase as a whole is not plural. Thus, is is correct (and are would be ungrammatical).

  • 1
    is is correct and are are ungrammatical... – PSU Mar 31 '11 at 20:54
  • "making adult decisions" isn't singular! – Araucaria Jul 5 '17 at 7:54
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    @Araucaria: I edited this post to try to address your comment, but I'm not sure if I succeeded because your criticism is rather cryptic. Why don't you post an answer here? It would make it easier for people to see what you think is the right answer. I notice that you posted an answer to the similar question “Doing such stunts ARE punishable”, but that question is harder to find as it is more recent and closed. I think it would be good if you could adapt your answer to that question and re-post it here. – sumelic Dec 10 '17 at 22:24
  • @Araucaria Yes, it is. The act of making decisions (the subject) is very much singular. – user305707 Aug 8 '18 at 1:56
  • @TheWordsmith No, it has no grammatical number. It's just that verbs which have clauses as subjects take singular agreement by default. Generally, singular is the default verb agreement, and it only changes if the subject (or in certain cases another nearby noun phrase) is plural. The post as it now stands is entirely correct. – Araucaria Aug 8 '18 at 15:26
1

Making adult decisions is a singular noun phrase, as its head is the singular noun, making (a gerund). Thus, the singular is is the correct form to use here:

Making adult decisions is really not fun.

Alternative form:

The process of making adult decisions is really not fun.

In the second example, the subject of the sentence remains a singular noun phrase (the process of making adult decisions), as the singular the process is its head.

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    I'm a big fan, but 'making' isn't a noun here (even though it's a gerund-participle). Reason we know this is that it's taking a direct object. If you need to modify it, you'll need an adjective, not an adverb :) – Araucaria Jul 5 '17 at 21:42
  • @Araucaria Easy makings or even easy decision-making would be how to do it for a noun, but easily making decisions is certainly the only way that can work here, and that adverb along with the direct-object complement shows it’s a clearly verb and not a noun. The key point is that even though as a constituent, gerund phrases function as noun phrases, gerunds themselves are always only ever verbs. – tchrist Dec 11 '17 at 1:20
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What everyone else said, and also: Change it to fishing, dancing, walking, cooking, or any other activity based on a verb that doesn't require an object, and it will be clearer:

Losing is really not fun.
-> Losing a dollar is really not fun.
-> Losing two dollars is really, really not fun.

The subject, "losing", is the same for all three. To convince you that "losing" is the subject in the last example and not "dollars", try it with a pronoun:
Calling me was the best thing you could have done.
"Me" can never be a subject, and you would never say, "Calling I was the best thing you could have done." Therefore, the subject is most definitely "calling".

Gerunds are somewhere in between a noun and a verb, as they are modified with adverbs and can take direct objects, but are always used where nouns would be:
He was praised for his efficiency.
->He was praised for efficiently handling the problem.

Compare that to "deverbal nouns," as they call them, which look exactly the same but require adjectives and no direct objects:
He was praised for his efficient handling of the problem.

Wild, ain't it?? Both perfectly correct and very common, both using the -ing form, but the only difference is deciding which noun/verb rules to apply to them.

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Making adult decisions is a gerund phrase, which functions as a singular noun, and is the subject of the sentence. Gerund phrases are always singular, so the singular copula is appropriate.

0

In a comment beneath a recent duplicate question, BillJ provided the following explanation:

Clause subjects take singular agreement, so "is" is the correct verb. – BillJ 2018-04-26

I'm posting this here in case certain linguistically inclined users still perceive any deficiencies in the content or wording of RegDwigнt♦'s answer on this page (Araucaria left a comment beneath an old revision of RegDwigнt♦'s answer saying "'making adult decisions' isn't singular!", and posted an answer to a duplicate question “Doing such stunts ARE punishable” that seems to give the same explanation as BillJ's comment).

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