Why does a pairing of a noun and phrase about it, specifically with a question word, take a singular verb?

Generically: [Noun] and [idea about noun] [singular verb].†

Example: Language and how we use it has always fascinated me.

Why is the verb singular? Because there are two subjects it would seem that the verb should be plural. If the second subject was another noun, the verb would certainly be plural: The bike and its evolution are interesting.

My best conjecture is that there is actually only one subject and that the second apparent subject actually just specifies the relevant aspect of the first subject. Perhaps better punctuation would be parentheses: The bicycle (and how it evolved) is interesting.

Perhaps this construction is wrong and this whole question irrelevant. I am not claiming it is the cleanest expression of the idea, but only that it is a more valid construction than with a plural verb. I am relying on its sounding right, and a plural verb's sounding wrong. How something sounds to one person isn't sufficient evidence, but I haven't found a good way to search for examples of either.


1 Answer 1


You're reading too much into a violation of the standard convention in formal writing that a conjunction means two things and thus takes a plural verb. If we follow your line of reasoning that a semantic consideration -- the second subject specifies the first -- then the following would be correct:

Language and the ways we use it has always fascinated me.

The attraction of the multiword, singular second subject to the following verb has influenced what we think about number. The length of the second subject also reminds us of a singular subject and an aside, which by convention keeps the verb singular. Thus

The bicycle, particularly considering its evolution, is interesting.

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