1. Doing such stunts are punishable.
  2. Doing such stunts is punishable.

Should it be is or are?

There is a conflict. Stunts are punishable sounds right. However, I think whether is or are should be used will not depend on a plural or singular form of the noun stunts here. It depends on something else.

Why do we need singular or plural verb agreement here?


2 Answers 2


Analyze the sentence, substitute such stunts with X. See if it still makes sense:

Doing X is punishable.

The punishment in this case is not for such stunts but rather the action of doing them. Therefore we can use "is" in this sentence.

We can expand the example with other actions:

Running a hundred miles without any breaks is not smart.

Taking on that many assignments is not a good idea.

Carrying too many bottles filled with liquids is not allowed on international flights.

Killing people or domesticated animals is a punishable offense.


Doing such stunts is punishable.

The example above has a clause as a Subject. We can parse it like this:

  • [Doing such stunts] is punishable.

When the Subject of a sentence is a clause, we always see singular verb agreement:

  • That she is not here yet is problematic.
  • For her to do that is undesirable.

It does not matter if the clause has an expressed Subject or not:

  • Eating babies is wrong
  • To forgive is noble.

If we use plural verb forms when we have a clause as a Subject, the result will be ungrammatical:

  • *That she is not here yet are problematic. (ungrammatical)
  • *For her to do that are undesirable. (ungrammatical)
  • *Eating babies are wrong. (ungrammatical)
  • *To forgive are noble. (ungrammatical)

For this reason we need singular verb agreement in the Original Poster's sentence. Why? Because:

  • *[Using plural verb forms with clausal Subjects] are ungrammatical. (ungrammatical)
  • How do you analyze “Showings of movies before noon are half-price.”
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 4:20
  • @Jim Any -ing word with an S on the end is a noun not a verb (a"deverbal" noun). Because they're nouns they can't take a direct object, and the 'object-like' phrase must appear in an of-preposition phrase. Such nouns can of course also have articles and so forth. For comparison with -ing nouns consider -tion ones. celebrating the festivities verus celebrations of the festivities. Of course, plural nouns most often take plural verb agrement! :-) Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 22:20

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