Thanks everybody for your enthusiasm for my previous questions. Now I have an additional question pertaining to a particular section of English grammar: "number shifts"

For example:

  • The problem with this plan is all of the permits we could have to file before starting the project.

It is obvious that neither the word "is" or "are" is consistent with the noun each of them refers to. Therefore, how can I solve this dilemma? After a moment of thinking the solution, I got exhausted; therefore, I decided to get rid of this kind of confusion by changing the whole sentence into a somewhat new one:

  • Filling all of the permits required by this plans will probably delay the project.

However, I was still not satisfied with my attempt. So, can somebody give me some advice on how to tackle this kind of situation? Should I change the form of the sentence without changing its meaning or is there a correct way using the word "is" or "are"? If I needed to adhere to the latter approach, what would I essentially do to avoid the mismatch between "noun" and "verb"? Once again, thanks for any help!

Best regards

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    Your first sentence seems completely fine to me, as your usage of 'is' is due to problem being singular. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:32
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    I'm not sure I understand your problem really. In your first sentence, the subject is singular so the verb is singular. The subject complement is plural, but that doesn't usually affect the verb’s number (except in existential clauses)… so why is it you don't feel that is works? If you wanted to avoid the plural complement, you could just say “The problem with this plan is the number of permits we would [note: not ‘could’] have to file…”. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:35
  • The fact is that in that sentence, I equate the phrase "the problem" with "all of the permits". Therefore, the word "is" is inconsistent with "all of the permits". Similarly, the word "are" does not match "the problem", either. I got confused simply because I read a material which talk about some subtle grammartical mistakes,
    – nthntn
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:39
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    Subject agreement is with the Subject noun phrase, not with a complement noun phrase. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


Well, I believe the subject agreement in the first sentence is correct. "Is" refers to "Problem" which is singular. If you replaced "is" with "are" the sentence would read:

The problem with this plan are..."

which would be incorrect because, as I said earlier, problem is a singular word which needs a singular verb to follow.

Your construction change in the second sentence is incorrect for that very reason. "This plans" is an incorrect phrase because "this" - a singular pronoun - is modifying "plans" - a plural noun - and should be these. I think you meant to say "this plan." In that case the sentence would be correct.

A simple fix for the first sentence if you don't like the way it looks is to change it to

The problems with this plan are all of the permits...

But, as for the subject-verb agreement, all three sentences are correct.

If you'd like to read more, these websites here and here may help.

  • Oh god, I forgot about the word "plans" that it must have been "plan". Truly sorry
    – nthntn
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:50
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    'Plan' or 'plans' would make no difference here. "The problem with these plans is..." would still be correct. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 17:48

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