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As far as I know, the last noun determines whether "is" or "are" is to be used. I recently came to know that "are" is incorrectly used here. Could someone please explain why?

Also, what's wrong in the following sentence and why?

Horse is a faithful animal.

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    You're thinking of disjunctions. The rough rule is that the number of the subject determines the number of the verb. Here, that's teacher, singular. When you're talking about a particular horse or about the species using the singular noun, you need the definite article The horse; when you're using a singular noun as a general representative, you need the indefinite article (A horse). If the name of the animal is Horse, you don't need an article. – deadrat May 6 '16 at 18:52
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"As well as" means "in addition to"--it does not mean "and."

You would say

The teacher and the students are busy

but phrases such as together with, as well as, and along with do not function like and, that is, they do not create compound subjects.

And, you should include commas:

The teacher, as well as the students, is busy

This is because "as" (as well as), "to" (in addition to), and "with" (together with, along with) are prepositions and what follows them is not a subject, but rather an object (of the preposition). Hence, anything following these phrases does not affect the conjugation of the verb. Many people find this difficult to digest, and often it is better to recast the statement--by replacing "as well as" with "and," for example, or saying

The teacher is busy, and so are the students

or some such.

As for "Horse is a faithful animal," that is an entirely different question, and deadrat explains nicely above.

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    But there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying The teacher and the students are busy; indeed even, the students and the teacher are busy. – WS2 May 6 '16 at 19:04
  • Agreed. It's the best solution, i think. – user66965 May 6 '16 at 19:11
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Because the subject is "The teacher". It says "The teacher is busy." It presupposes it to be already known that the students are busy.

"A as well as B" traditionally means you'd expect B, but A is also true. We know of course that the students are busy, but the teacher is busy as well.

When I find "as well as" used to mean "and" in a Wikipedia article I usually just change it to "and". Using "as well as" instead of "and" seems idiotic.

  • Someone down-voted this answer. Can someone explain what objections there might be to it? – Michael Hardy May 7 '16 at 19:47
  • Certainly not my downvote! However, my post here might possibly explain why you got one. It might alternatively be because you described normal speech as "idiotic" - but I don't know, I'm just guessing. (I'm not sure, btw, that we'd only use this if we already knew that the students were busy - it could be the other way round, it seems to me) – Araucaria May 8 '16 at 21:30
  • @Araucaria : As you may observe, I described a certain way of writing as idiotic. Lot's of commonplace things are idiotic – Michael Hardy May 9 '16 at 3:42
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The teacher, [as well as the students], is busy.

The crucial point is that "as well as the students" is an adjunct. It is backgrounded, not part of the subject as a coordinated element would be, and hence has no control over the verb. Instead, the subject is the singular noun phrase "the teacher", which of course takes singular verb agreement, "is".

Syntactically, the second "as" is a preposition taking the noun phrase "the students" as its complement, and the whole preposition phrase "as the students" is an indirect complement in the adverb phrase "as well as the students".

  • You might find CaGEL p.1316 interesting. I also wrote a post about this here, which gives a different take. :) – Araucaria May 8 '16 at 21:08
  • @Araucaria I read p1316 and concluded that this was a case of subordination, not coordination. – BillJ May 8 '16 at 21:14
  • Maybe it can go either way here? The are version seems preferable to me, thought they both seem grammatical. Am not around so much at the mo. Was good to see an answer from you when I swung by. – Araucaria May 8 '16 at 21:17
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Your example sentence is structurally ambiguous. It could be from combining the discontinuous constituent "the teacher ... is busy" with "as well as the students", in which case "is" agrees with the singular subject "the teacher", or it could be from combining the constituent "the teacher as well as the students" with "are busy", in which case "are" agrees with the plural subject "the teacher as well as the students". Such constructions are considered in detail in McCawley's text The Syntactic Phenomena of English.

There are tendencies to mark such discontinuous structures in spoken language with intonation breaks, sometimes indicated with commas when written, or to simply avoid such structural ambiguities.

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