I have an English course book that contains this question:

Fill in the blank "The book is a set of techniques that systematically __ the learner for interaction with target language speakers".
(A) prepare (B) preparing (C) prepares (D) prepared."

The answer given in the book is A, but isn't C correct? I used Google and found this example "DNA technology is a powerful set of techniques that ALLOWS scientists to examine, change, and create new genetic material"

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    B is unquestionably ungrammatical, and D is valid but unlikely. Most native speakers (particularly, of BrE rather than AmE) would be quite happy to use the plural verb form A (the reference is to multiple techniques), but the singular C is also perfectly valid (the reference is to a single set). – FumbleFingers Sep 2 '14 at 15:47
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    There is no standard "correct" tense. One may use any verb except (B) when that is present as the subject of the relative clause. Without that, one may use only (B), because it's no longer a relative clause but a participial phrase. – John Lawler Sep 2 '14 at 17:38
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    @FumbleFingers I rather disagree: the question is who is doing the preparing. It is the techniques, not the set nor the book. – tchrist Sep 4 '14 at 1:41
  • @tchrist: It is of course the techniques in both cases (AmE and BrE). But by emphasizing set, you (at some level) stress the fact that the techniques have something in common. You might even stress the fact (if fact it is) that the techniques act collectively (i.e., together) to do the job. The AmE phrase makes no such suggestion, and it might even suggest that the techniques are independent, that they can act independently to each do the job. I'm only talking about possible connotation, perhaps unconscious association. I don't mean that folks necessarily think consciously in these terms. – Drew Sep 4 '14 at 2:25
  • @Drew I don’t see this as some matter of difference between AmE and BrE as you do. It can still be a plural verb in AmE under my analysis. – tchrist Sep 4 '14 at 2:27

The question comes down to who is doing the preparing:

  1. The book prepares
  2. The set prepares
  3. The techniques prepare

I’m pretty certain that the intended meaning here is one where only option 3 makes sense. Therefore, the correct verb is prepare.

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