200 job losses is/are not a price worth paying
Is the singular or plural form more appropriate here, considering job losses is plural and price is singular?
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
There have been other threads on ELU which have addressed notional agreement, but perhaps this one merits/needs individual treatment.
Notional agreement is the prioritising of agreement of the verb say with the etic rather than the formal number of the subject.
Almost all people would choose notional agreement with
200 dollars is all I can afford.
40 miles is too much for us to walk in a single day.
Gin and tonic is my favourite drink.
Some people reject, others virtually insist on notional agreement with
England were beaten 1 - 0 this week. /
England was beaten 1 - 0 this week.
Though notional agreement and formal agreement both insist on
England has a very long coastline.
Again, some people reject, others accept notional agreement with
The staff is / are very friendly.
Notional agreement means:
choosing the singular verb-form where the subject is understood to be unitary even if not composed of a single element (a drink of gin and tonic, a distance of 40 miles, the country of England has a very long coastline, a health and safety policy ...)
but the plural verb-form where the subject is interpreted as consisting of discernable constituent parts (The players on the England team / England were beaten, the [members of the] staff are [all] very friendly ...).
Here, '200 job losses is/are not a price worth paying' is a rather unusual string. But it must surely be considered to correspond more closely to '$200 is not a price worth paying' than '200 jobs are lost each month'. Contrast '[The fact of] 200 job losses is unacceptable' with '200 job losses are unacceptable [but the other 33 are OK]'.
A rewrite is in order.
The loss of 200 jobs is not worth the price.
I find the construction you are attempting to use difficult to follow no matter which variation of the verb you choose.
The loss here is singular, in the sense of it being an aggregation of something(s). What is being aggregated here is the jobs that are being lost.
Another rewrite would bear the plural verb.
200 job losses are not worth the price.
In that case, the objection I have is the idiom used in the object. I think that holds true in both examples I have provided. "Paying the price" is something I don't think fits in this sentence as the price is being estimated and negotiated, and not being delivered.
Here is paying the price being used properly.
I was paying the price after I tried a bicycle kick for the first time.
In this case, the price is being delivered after the soccer player made his decision and carried out his choice.
I hope this helps.