Which is the correct one:

the big downside is the imperfect messages the user gets.

the big downside are the imperfect messages the user gets.

I am almost sure the second one is correct with "the messages" being the subject and "are the downside" the predicative nominal.

  • 2
    I am no grammarian, but as a native speaker, I can tell you without question the first is idiomatic and expected and the second is strange and awkward.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 3, 2016 at 20:26
  • From the dupe's answer I gather that correct are: "the downside is the messages" and "the messages are the downside". This is very counter-intuitive for me, as in my language, even if we inverse the order, the subjects remains the same noun and so the same form of singular/plural for the verb applies, regardless of the order. But I see here the subject is the first one in both cases. I interpreted correct?
    – bolov
    Oct 3, 2016 at 21:05
  • 1
    That is correct. There are occasions where the subject follows the verb but they are unusual. The only example I can think of is "Hurrah, say I!" and, in that case, there is no alternative subject to be used.
    – BoldBen
    Oct 3, 2016 at 21:48

1 Answer 1


From what I've recently been studying in subject-verb agreement, the verb should be "is." "A big downside" as the subject is singular and needs "is" as the verb in order to be correct. The predicate nominative "the imperfect messages" is not usually regarded unless the subject is replaced by an expletive such as "there" or "it." I hope this helps!

  • I think this is mostly right. Expletive "it" does actually require a singular verb, even if it's followed by a plural noun phrase (you can't say something like "it are the messages", you have to say "it is the messages").
    – herisson
    Oct 3, 2016 at 22:58

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