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This question already has an answer here:

The sentence is this:

“two of the people I met were a sweet couple who wanted to move to the countryside.”

I have two questions.

Do I match “were/was” to “two of the people I met” or to “a sweet couple”?

If I need to match to “a sweet couple” do I take the couple as a single entity and use the singular case or do I need to consider the couple as more than one and use the plural case?

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Edwin Ashworth, Dan Bron, user240918, Davo Mar 1 '18 at 13:41

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  • That only addresses the second question, not the first, @FumbleFingers – Colin Fine Feb 28 '18 at 19:05
  • @Colin: I take it by "the first question" you mean the matter of whether Two of the people I met were a sweet couple should be using was rather than were. Per previous comment, that's on a par with asking about the validity of They is a couple I met on holiday. Which I'd probably have closevoted as "Too Basic / Lacking Research" even if it had been asked on ELL rather than here. – FumbleFingers Mar 1 '18 at 13:11
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First question: the subject is plural ("two of the people I met"), so the verb is plural, even though the complement might be singular. So your sentence is fine.

Second question: In my experience "a couple" usually takes a plural verb. But I speak British English, which is more tolerant of collective nouns (such as "company", "team", "board") taking a plural verb. Americans tend to insist on a singular verb for those collectives; I don't know whether that applies to "couple" as well or not.

  • I can't see anyone endorsing They is a couple I met on holiday but I suppose (some?) Americans might prefer They are a couple that was married by our preacher over (...were married...). I'd already closevoted citing a different "original" before finding this answer that I posted years ago, with a chart that seems to imply there's been a massive shift towards the more "pragmatic" BrE preference for there are a couple over there is a couple in recent decades. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '18 at 16:54

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