I am writing a book review. I've encountered a problem with my sentence, "The Song of Albion Trilogy are the best books I’ve ever read". Even though I am talking about a trilogy or series, it is not only the best series I've read, but also the best books I've read including stand-alone novels. I want to say this using proper grammar. Should I be using "is" or "are" and can I use "books" or do I have to say it differently? I understand that if I said "trilogy" instead of "books" that I would use "is", but I am wondering the correct verb to use if I keep my original sentence. I can't do "The Song of Albion Trilogy is the best books I’ve ever read.", can I?

  • 1
    When in doubt, reword. – Hot Licks Apr 15 '18 at 2:21
  • "The books of the Song of Albion trilogy are the best I've ever read." – Xanne Apr 15 '18 at 6:28
  • 'The Song of Albion' trilogy are the best books I've ever read. Notional agreement. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 15 '18 at 9:37
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth: That looks like the sort of thing that should be an answer, not a comment. – herisson Apr 15 '18 at 10:12
  • @sumelic I'm not prepared to search through many examples looking for those where 'Trilogy' is part of the Title. I've not seen notional agreement extended to 'Asimov's Foundation Trilogy were once considered the greatest books in the SF genre'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 15 '18 at 16:52

Whether a noun or noun phrase in English is grammatically "singular" or "plural" is not equivalent to the question of whether it refers to a single object or multiple objects. For example, the noun phrase "a pile of clothes" probably refers to multiple articles of clothing, but it takes singular verb agreement: "A pile of clothes is sitting on the floor".

"The Song of Albion Trilogy" is a singular noun phrase, and I don't see any basis for saying that it is "actually plural"—not even in the context of a sentence like this.

In the sentence "The Song of Albion Trilogy are/is the best books I’ve ever read", the subject is "The Song of Albion Trilogy". The noun phrase "the best books I’ve ever read" is just the predicative complement.

In general, the grammatical number of the predicative complement does not determine the number of the associated inflected form of "be". Instead, the inflected form of "be" takes the grammatical number of its subject. For example, we can say things like "Water shortages are a problem", where even though "a problem" is singular, the preceding form of "be" is inflected for the third-person plural (are) because the subject of the sentence, "water shortages", is a plural noun phrase. This is covered in the answers to the following question: Agreement in "[Singular Noun] Is/Are [Plural Noun]"?

Based on this rule, "The Song of Albion Trilogy are the best books I’ve ever read" would be considered ungrammatical. It doesn't sound correct to me.

"The Song of Albion Trilogy is the best books I’ve ever read" would be grammatically correct according to the rule of subject-verb agreement, but I agree that it sounds odd. I think Hot Licks is correct to advise rewording the sentence.

Notional agreement?

In a comment, Edwin Ashworth brought up the concept of "notional agreement". I didn't get into this in the first version of this answer because I didn't think it was relevant; however, there do seem to be some examples of people using plural agreement in sentences where the subject is a noun phrase headed by "Trilogy" and the predicative complement is a a plural noun phrase.


You'll have to use your judgement to decide if sentences like this feel grammatical for you.

  • @tchrist: the sentence that you quoted doesn't use the word "trilogy" in the same position, so it seems irrelevant. Compare e.g. "The British Isles are a group of islands..."--although the words "isles" and "islands" are in general synonyms, in this context "Isles" is capitalized because it forms part of a proper noun. – herisson Apr 15 '18 at 3:13
  • @tchrist: As far as I can tell, there is nothing wrong in principle with using "The Song of Albion Trilogy" as the title/proper name of a trilogy (although it doesn't seem to be the name that is used on the covers of the books, so it's unclear to me whether it is in fact the correct title of the trilogy). – herisson Apr 15 '18 at 3:14
  • Has anyone located any plural example from an American source? I can't find a single one. Trilogy, anthology, collection, and series, are all strictly singular. And if "The Tales from the Borderlands series" can't produce a plural, I'm not holding out much hope. – Phil Sweet Apr 15 '18 at 17:36
  • Thank you @sumelic, Hot Licks, and Edwin Ashworth for your responses! I will probably choose to reword in this case, but it is helpful to know the actual correct grammar. Also, I love the example you used, sumelic! The Thrawn Trilogy is another one of my favorites. – Zeke Stephens Apr 15 '18 at 21:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.