Heard an English teacher claim that:

"Dogs is not my cup of tea" is correct; whereas "Dogs are not my cup of tea" is incorrect.

The explanation was that the verb form of 'to be' must agree with the singular noun 'cup' and not the plural noun 'dogs'.

Checked Google on this and it appears that this is an extreme minority opinion at best. Nonetheless, can the teacher's argument be authoritatively refuted, or must this person be allowed to continue impressing pupils with their dubious insider's knowledge of the English tongue?

  • 5
    You can't get more definitely wrong than this. The verb agrees with the subject not the object. – Fraser Orr Oct 15 '14 at 20:08
  • 4
    @FraserOrr It’s not an object, though, but a complement. But yes, in a simple sentence like this where both subject and complement are complete noun phrases (no existential ‘there’ or anything like that), the subject agrees with the verb, never the compliment. If an English teacher says otherwise, that English teacher has no business teaching English. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 15 '14 at 20:12
  • But can it not be argued that 'cup' is the subject? As in - 'My cup is dogs.' – Jack Robbin Oct 15 '14 at 20:15
  • OK. Thanks, I got 'the authoritative argument' I needed to address this issue. The noun 'cup' is a subject complement that follows the linking verb 'to be' placed after the subject. The verb form must agree with the subject noun and not the complement noun. – Jack Robbin Oct 15 '14 at 20:31
  • I think your teacher might be incorrect. Consider "These(plural) are not my idea(singular) of a great choices(plural) for a meal." This could be rephrased as "These choices for a meal are not my idea. They are not great." – Renae Lider Oct 15 '14 at 20:36

The form of "to be" should match the subject of the verb, which in this case is "Dogs", so the correct sentence is "Dogs are...". The second part of the sentence "not my cup of tea" is a subject complement, not the subject, and therefore has no bearing on the form of the verb.

  • Yes. Indeed, that is an authoritative answer that I can present for objective scrutiny. Thank you. – Jack Robbin Oct 15 '14 at 22:30

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