I followed the discussion of the use of "Most" and it is evident that if the noun is plural, the verb takes the plural. Most companies are .... But in the example above "Most information and knowledge are false" sounds wrong.

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    The nouns 'information' and 'knowledge' are uncountable. When two nouns act as subject but suggest a single idea, the verb can be singular. Feb 18, 2017 at 10:32

1 Answer 1

  1. Neither information nor knowledge are plural nouns.
  2. Information and knowledge is not plural. It's what is called a "coordinative noun phrase".
  3. Generally, the grammar of coordinative structures is a complicated topic. These kind of noun phrases can be treated as either singular or plural, depending on whether you view them as one thing or two things.

Examples of coordinations seen as separate (plural):

  • The House and Senate are in conflict. (not: is in conflict)
  • The bride and groom have left. (not: has left)
  • Research and development are not the same thing. (not: is not the same thing)

Examples of coordinations seen as one thing (singular):

  • The wear and tear is not a problem. (not: are not a problem)
  • Research and development is expensive. (not usually: Research and development are expensive)

Often, both interpretations are possible:

  • The snow and ice is melting.
  • The snow and ice are melting.
  • Is crime and violence more prevalent today than in the past?
  • Are crime and violence more prevalent today than in the past?

Most means "the best part of". It doesn't really make sense to talk about "the best part of" two separate things, so constructions like "most ... and ..." will typically dictate a singular view of the coordination:

  • Most crime and violence is caused by poverty.

The same goes for all, a lot of, etc.:

  • All this buying and selling is getting us nowhere.
  • A lot of education and training occurs outside of schools.
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    Of course, most may only be intended to determine crime, not violence (syntactically, at least—hardly logically, since you’d then be claiming that all violence is caused by poverty, which is obviously nonsense). Switching the constituents for clarity, you’d then get, “Violence and most crime is/are caused by poverty”, where plural agreement would be more likely. Feb 18, 2017 at 10:53
  • This has been addressed quite fully on ELU before, but this is perhaps the definitive answer. Feb 18, 2017 at 22:59
  • You mean “Neither information nor knowledge is a plural noun.” One says that neither X nor Y is in the singular, unless Y is itself plural as in “Neither dogs nor cats are permitted here” but “Neither a dog nor a cat is permitted here”. It does not always work this way in other languages, however, and while examples of plural concord on disjunctive singulars can be found in English, a copyeditor will “always” correct it in curated text.
    – tchrist
    Feb 19, 2017 at 4:44
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    @tchrist: Yes, copyeditors have all sorts of arbitrary rules ("different than" is wrong, use "different from"!). But if "neither ... nor + plural" is good enough for Huddleston and Pullum ("The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language") and their copyeditor, it's good enough for me. (Example: "Neither 'it' nor 'there' commonly enter into construction with a coordination of VPs...") Feb 19, 2017 at 10:47
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    Can you tell that I’ve been brutalized by copyeditors back when I was too young to know to fight back? :)
    – tchrist
    Feb 19, 2017 at 22:35

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