Using the example sentence in the title, would you use the plural linking verb are or singular linking verb is?

The same question can be applied to anything with the following format:

(action verb ending with -ing) (prepositional phrase) (singular or plural linking verb) (adjective)

To take a step further, here are my reasoning for the two in the title.

Lying on couches is boring.

And the other example:

Lying on couches are boring.

  • The second option is ungrammatical. – Matt Samuel Apr 24 '16 at 23:58
  • Laying ... is boring. – bib Apr 24 '16 at 23:59
  • 3
    What I would use? For starters, I would correct laying to lying, since the usage appears to be intransitive. That done, I would use the singular verb is, as agreeing in number with its subject, the gerund. – Brian Donovan Apr 25 '16 at 0:27

The first option, "Lying on couches is boring", is correct. The word "lying" is used as a gerund here, meaning that although "lie" is a verb, "lying" is a noun. This is a singular noun, so saying "lying is boring" is just like saying "The book is boring" or "My cat is boring".

"On couches" is a prepositional phrase, modifying the gerund, so basically it's an adjective. It's like saying "The green book is boring", or "The book about fish is boring". In both cases, "green" and "about fish" are used as adjectives, and don't really directly affect the verb.

So it's "lying on couches is boring" because "lying" is singular, and you would still use "is" even if there was only one couch ("lying on the couch is boring"), as "on couches" only describes the noun/gerund.

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  • 2
    Nice post, but laying is still a verb when it is a gerund. It is just the head of a clause, laying on couches, which is doing a job often done by noun phrases i.e. being a Subject. (Erm, and on couches is the Complement of the verb lay, it isn't a Modifier here ...) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 25 '16 at 7:05

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