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We are having a debate at my work on if "are" or "is" is the right word to use in the above sentence (actually, a similar sentence which is work-related).

I am aware that there are other ways of rewriting this sentence which avoids this confusion, but keeping the sentence structure in-tact, what is the right word to use here? and why?

Which houses ____ this road connected to?

  1. are
  2. is

First time poster here. Be gentle.

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You would use is. In a question like your example sentence, the object is often placed before the subject. The subject of that sentence is the road, and the houses are the object of a prepositional phrase (to which houses). You could rephrase the sentence like this:

This road ___ connected to which houses?

Because "road" is singular, you would say

This road is connected

So your final sentence would be

Which houses is this road connected to?

As an aside, prescriptive grammar perfectionists often admonish "don't end a sentence with a preposition." One reason is to avoid the sort of confusion that you and your coworker encountered. Although this rule is sometimes overkill and often parodied, such a grammar ninja would advise writing either

This road is connected to which houses?

or

To which houses is this road connected?

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  • Isn't the original question asking "Which houses"? In that case wouldn't the answer look more like "Houses 1, 2 and 3 are ..." than "This road is ..." ?
    – Niyaz
    Apr 19, 2017 at 19:06
  • This road IS connected to houses 1, 2, and 3.
    – Davo
    Apr 19, 2017 at 19:11
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    @Niyaz you're correct about how the answer could look. But the most direct answer to that question would be "This road is connected to houses 1, 2, and 3." Whether you use is or are is dependent on whether the subject of the sentence is singular or plural. Since "connected" means close to the same thing either way, (A is connected to B ~= B is connected to A), you can choose to use the houses or the road as the subject. But in the question posed in your post, the road is the subject, singular, so you stick with "is." Apr 19, 2017 at 19:13

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