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Original sentence: "What are new here are (1) XYZ and (2) PDQ."

Correcting this sentence in a text and it just feels wrong. In order to make sure I change it correctly, I tried searching for:

  1. The type of inversion this structure is, and thus,
  2. The rule for verb agreement.

Alas, no luck. The best I could do was try different combinations in Google Scholar, among which I found 138 instances of "What is new here are" (and, of course, 3940 results for "is ... is").

"Is ... are" feels much better, and the only explanation I can think of is that "is" agrees with "what", while "are" corresponds to what follows. Still, I can't really face the world with confidence in that explanation.

Can anybody point to the specific rule regarding this structure?

  • It's pseudo-clefting. The second verb here needs to agree with the complement, though this could be notional agreement. It would be more logical to make the first verb agree with the second, but there is a tendency to use it's, here's etc with plural complements. Correspondingly, I've found that there are 24 300 Google hits for "What's new here are". – Edwin Ashworth Feb 9 '15 at 13:05
  • Pseudo-clefting. Thanks. Still, it seems there's no definitive rule about the issue, although my search has only been cursory. ... But there is an interesting discussion on this very same Stack Exchange: english.stackexchange.com/questions/92050/… – Matt Feb 9 '15 at 18:05
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I agree that the option with "is" sounds better. However,it must be noted that a plural verb after "what" is also possible before a plural noun in an informal style.

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