0

Consider the sentence:

The aristocracy, as well as powerful merchant guilds, were viewed as restrictive to trade.

Should this be

The aristocracy, as well as powerful merchant guilds, was viewed as restrictive to trade.

How could it make sense in the latter case, since we are talking about a plurality of "merchant guilds"?

2
  • 2
    In the first place, aristocracy itself can probably take either was or were depending on if one is using it as a collective noun. But to answer your question, subject-verb concord usually ignores phrases as *as well as*/*along with*/and others. Nov 28, 2016 at 5:21
  • 3
    @AlanCarmack Actually, not quite so clear cut once you get into it. Here's a great post by F.E. on a similar question. (p.s. that question needs some reopen votes) Mar 28, 2017 at 12:09

2 Answers 2

1

The subordinate clause doesn't make the subject pleural. The verb is the same without it:

The aristocracy [was|were] viewed as restrictive to trade.

Try it with a simpler set of nouns:

Peter, as well as Paul and Mary, [was|were] singing.

I think that it is clearly a singular was particularly if you rearrange the sentence to:

As well as Paul and Mary, Peter was singing.

The ambiguity in your example sentence comes from the fact that the aristocracy could be either singular or pleural depending on whether you view it as a unified block or a collection of individuals.

0

It is a question of intent. If the commas are being used parenthetically, I should conclude that the latter construction is more correct. However, if (as I suspect) the intent is to group the aristocracy and guilds together, then the former is more accurate.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.