"Key to the relationship, sources said, are not just defense and security--which have a strong "strategic orientation"--but also innovation, agriculture..."

In this sentence, why is "are" used instead of "is"? I think "key to the relationship" should be followed by "is" because the word "Key" is acting as a singular subject. But in the image it is "are". Help me out; I am confused.


2 Answers 2


What a difference an article makes!

You are reading the sentence as if it should be:

The key is not just defense and security but also innovation, agriculture.

And indeed, were key preceded by the definite article, you would be correct.

But key here has no article: it's a predicate adjective placed in inverted order because key is, well, the key word in this sentence.


Crucial to the industry are access to viable markets and visibility.

Most important to the deliberations were the chairman's willingness to compromise and an unending supply of good vodka.


I think you've misidentified the subject of "are". It's "innovation, agriculture ...", which is plural. The original subject has been moved after the verb "are" because the subject is so long and complicated.

Thanks for the interesting example.

  • Thanks for you reply.. But can you tell me how you recognised that subject is after the verb " are" I mean why it is not " key to the relationship" And please also tell me in which conditions we do so..means use subject after " verb"
    – nanu
    Jan 16, 2018 at 7:12
  • In this context "key" is used as an adjective meaning "important/critical" so the sentence is saying "[important to the relationship] are defence and security.....or in normal order "Defence and security are key to the relationship"
    – SonOfPingu
    Jan 16, 2018 at 7:19
  • OK thanks for your answers ..I understood...please tell me how can i improve my these kinds of skills ..I confuse oftenly when see above kind of examples..
    – nanu
    Jan 16, 2018 at 7:26
  • Why not: "Not just defence and security - which have a strong defence orientation - but also innovation, agriculture", are key to the relationship", where the negative+postive NP coordination is the subject?
    – BillJ
    Jan 16, 2018 at 8:25
  • Nanu, I knew what the subject was because (1) I knew intuitively the sentence was fully grammatical (since I'm a native English speaker), and (2) it was the only way to work out the agreement of "are".
    – Greg Lee
    Jan 16, 2018 at 9:24

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