I am wondering if I should use "was" or "were" in the following sentence, which is from a scientific paper.

"Field data (4000 points) and gradient data (three projections) WAS/WERE sent to the PC."

I think "were" sounds correct, but data is uncountable and usually uses "was". Does using "and" mean I have to refer to the subject of the sentence as plural even if the nouns themselves are uncountable/collective nouns?

EDIT: In other words, if I have two sub-types of the same collective noun (data), do I have to treat the subject of the sentence as plural? Or does combining two instances with the same collective noun yield a subject that is singular?


  • 1
    Notional agreement would assume that 'two sets of data' is implied and should govern agreement. Note however that 'Field and gradient data' would prompt a notion of one set of data, and require singular agreement. Apr 21, 2017 at 14:18
  • 1
    Have you considered revising the sentence itself? Switching to the active voice might help. Who sent the data? For example, "Johnny sent field and gradient data to the PC." Apr 21, 2017 at 14:25
  • I'm surprised that no one has pedantically pointed out that data is plural... (ducks, runs away).
    – shoover
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


John was.
Michael was.
John and Michael were.

Field data was.
Gradient data was.
Field data and gradient data were.

Individual subjects take singular verbs. Compound subjects take plural verbs.

(One further complication: Some might point out that "data" is actually a plural form of the word "datum," and they wouldn't be wrong.)

  • Thanks. I think my confusion arose from the fact that when "data" is used as a collective noun, you use "is" instead of "are" (e.g., "The data was missing."). I thought that joining two sub-groups of the same collective noun by using "and" still yields a subject that is considered singular. Apr 25, 2017 at 2:23

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