I hope you do not find this question too silly, but I'm puzzled.

"What I love the most is animals" sounds perfectly okay to me. But so does "Animals are what I love the most."

Anything to say on subject-verb agreement? Does word order make a difference in syntax here?

I know similar issues have been discussed already. From what I read, confusion about the first sentence may arise from the number of the "wh-clause." But how about "Animals are/is what I love the most"? Does this choice have to do with a subjective perception of the subject as singular or plural?

The way I understand it, the subject and subjective complement are interchangeable. Then, should the copular verb change or not?


  • Please provide grammar rules, not linguistic intuitions. – M-b Jun 29 '17 at 15:03
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    Word order is absolutely relevant, because it indicates which part is the grammatical subject: see english.stackexchange.com/questions/17766/… and the answers there. So the basis of your question is whether "what" can be treated as singular in this context; if it can, there is nothing wrong with "...is animals" (which for example is indisputably correct in "The thing that I love most is animals"). – herisson Jun 29 '17 at 15:09
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    Subject and subject complement are not interchangeable. That may be a misimpression based on prescriptivist analogies meant to explain why subject complements "should" be in the subjective case. They have different syntactic roles: one is the subject of the clause, the other isn't. This affects the form of the verb because English has has a rule of subject-verb agreement; the verb doesn't have to agree with non-subject noun phrases in the sentence. It might be clearer if you consider an example with person agreement: "He is..." is correct, but "I is he" is wrong. – herisson Jun 29 '17 at 16:08
  • Pretty clarifying. Thanks @sumelic. I've kept on reading and have found that a change in order demands a change in agreement, even when it is a subject complement. What seems to raise more questions is the number of "what/all-clauses", and my conclusion is I can use either singular or plural verbs in most cases, as long as I'm consistent. – M-b Jun 29 '17 at 16:17