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Should I use the singular “was” or the plural “were” in the following sentence?

The first thing that I noticed was (OR) were the street performers singing near the main entrance of the park.

If I reversed the order, should the verb agree with its antecedent the street performers, which is a plural noun, or with singular noun “thing”?

The street performers, singing near the main entrance of the park, were (OR) was the first thing I noticed.

I could change the singular thing into things but I am uncomfortable with saying “the performers” are “things”.

The street performers, singing near the main entrance of the park, were the first things I noticed.

closed as off-topic by tchrist, FumbleFingers, Julie Carter, Mari-Lou A, Mitch Sep 16 '15 at 16:39

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    It are us or It is us? – Edwin Ashworth Sep 2 '15 at 21:36
  • About 255 results in Google Books for the first thing I noticed (and hundreds more for next/only thing he/she/we/they etc. etc) suggest that it's as much a matter of style/nuance as anything. – FumbleFingers Sep 2 '15 at 22:02
  • @FF I'm very unhappy with the plural verb here. 'I noticed several things. The first thing were the street performers.' It sounds very unnatural to my ears. I'm convinced that 'It is us' is archetypal. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 2 '15 at 22:13
  • Hi, Josh. Your question is on the verge of being closed because (1) you don't indicate why you think there may be an issue involving was vs. were in the example sentence, and (2) you don't report anything you've found out in researching the question before asking it here. Please consider adding some coverage of these points to your question. – Sven Yargs Sep 2 '15 at 22:59
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    possible duplicate of The most amazing thing (was/were) the people who – Mari-Lou A Sep 5 '15 at 7:57
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'The first thing was ...' The subject of the verb 'to be' is 'thing.'

You could say, 'The first things were...' –

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