Let's consider this sentence:

The postponement of marriage in order to accumulate credentials or job experience, the willingness to move to further career goals, and — in the case of bohemians — the willingness to accept incomes too low to support children in order to be an avant-garde writer or artist or revolutionary sets intellectuals and other elite professionals apart from the working-class majority whose education ends with high school and who rely on extended family networks for economic support and child care.

(Excerpted from Michael Lind - aldaily.com)

In the above sentence, the subject consists of three components separated by two commas. However, the main verb of this sentence, "sets", does not agree with the subject (since it contain three parts). Therefore, can someone elucidate this sentence for me? Thanks!

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    Probably the writer simply got lost in his inordinately long phrasing, and just lost track of the plurality of his subject. But it is acceptable even on strict "grammatical" grounds if we suppose Lind thinks of all three things (postponement of marriage, willingness to move, willingness to accept low incomes) as being three "aspects" of one single "dedicated attitude". As covered by this comment on a similar earlier question. Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


Franks and beans is my favorite meal.

A common rule of thumb states that a list coordinated by "and" is normally plural.  However, "franks and beans" happens to be singular in this context.  In this context, it doesn't matter that "franks" is plural, that "beans" is plural, or that the coordination subsumes inclusive elements.  What matters is that "franks and beans" represents one thing. 

Your model sentence includes three primary examples in the same way that my model includes two primary ingredients.  Those two ingredients represent a singular preparation of food.  Those three examples represent a singular pattern of behavior. 

Franks and beans is a dish.  Franks and beans are ingredients.  The form of the verb tells us whether the coordination represents a coherent whole or some number of pieces. 

Of the elite, we could say either that this pattern sets them apart or that these behaviors set them apart.  The pattern as a whole, which may well include several other example behaviors, stands as the subject of your model.  On the same hand, my preferred style of franks and beans also includes buns and brown sugar. 

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