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In the sentence below is has been used, but there is some disagreement in the office over whether it should be are:

This is necessary to ensure that any change, or addition, to existing features is communicated to all relevant parties and that approvals are documented.

If the subject is change and it is singular, wouldn't is be correct? Even though features, parties and approvals are plural, they don't matter for the verb agreement as none of them is the subject. And using or with addition doesn't make the subject two things, it is still one. Am I missing something?

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  • It should read as "these are" or "this is". More info on linking verbs Mar 18, 2016 at 17:35
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    Any change, or addition, is communicated. Any changes, or additions, are communicated. The parenthetical is a parenthetical. It can, and should, be removed to clearly see that "any change are communicated" just isn't grammatical English. (Where it can get complicated is once the parenthetical is of a different number, as in "any change, or additions,". But we actually even have a question that covers that. I can find the link if you wish, but I'm not including it right off the bat as it's irrelevant to your text.)
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 18, 2016 at 17:38
  • How about using "be"? Mar 18, 2016 at 17:40
  • Thank you everyone for your help. Yes, we could reword the sentence, but the issue is whether this is grammatically correct. Plus it's nice to know that I remember stuff from middle school.
    – DCDimon
    Mar 18, 2016 at 20:45
  • @RegDwight PurdueOWL: 'When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb.' The commas are better dropped here: this is not a parenthetical but a disjunction. Mar 19, 2016 at 1:06

1 Answer 1

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You are correct. The relevant portion is "change ... is", so you use the singular form. You could also say "any changes or additions to existing features are communicated" to use the plural.

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    By this reckoning, I'd assume that "any change or additions to existing features is communicated" must be OK. But it's not. 'When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb.' (op cit) Mar 19, 2016 at 1:07
  • @EdwinAshworth I would have used are in this case, but only because it sounded correct. I was unaware of this rule until I started browsing this site. I actually saved this URL to my bookmarks bar because I think I'll be visiting here a lot.
    – DCDimon
    Mar 20, 2016 at 13:31
  • The wording was actually changed to "changes and/or additions". So the question of is vs. are is moot. However, it's nice to know that my grammar was correct in the original sentence.
    – DCDimon
    Mar 20, 2016 at 13:37

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