Consider the sentence

The cavity of each device A, B, and C was/were ...

where each device has only one cavity. Cavity is singular, but it is applied to each of the items of a list. How should one decide to use the singular or plural here?

An alternative form of the sentence is

The cavities of devices A, B, and C were ...

However, it seems that this form leaves ambiguous whether each device has one or more cavities. Would either form be satisfactory?


The singular subject alone determines demands a singular verb, especially in American English. "The cavity of each was explored." The separation of the singular subject from the verb by a long phrase ending with a plural noun is an old English-teacher trick because it "sounds OK" to someone who does not immediately recognize the structure of the sentence. Parse away the modifiers and the answer is clear. "Cavity was explored."

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