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So I'm having a bit of a pluraltiy issue here, and I'm not sure which is the correct version because they both seem right, and I've seen both versions used in writing:

A. What is your first and last name?

B. What are your first and last names?

The second version seems more grammatically correct than the first one, but it just sounds odd. The first one is what you'd typically hear in speech, but that of course doesn't mean it's right.

Then again, this doesn't seem grammatically correct:

Your first and last name is ...

While this does:

Your first and last names are ...

So is one of these more right than the other, or are they equally valid?

EDIT: Option A previously said "What are your first and last name" when it should have said "What is your first and last name". My question is about the pluralization of "name".

  • First and last names, with an s. What are. BUT: What is your first name and [what is] your last name? Could be construed as singular. – Lambie Apr 24 '18 at 17:40
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    With credentials you're by definition welcome to offer a bonus but really, how is that Question even permissible here? How is it not wholly better suited to English Language Learners? If you insist, first and last are clearly not one name; first and last are clearly "names". That can be confused by "What is your name?" answered "First Middle Last" and that simply is not realistic, as evidenced in your own clear differentiation "… first and last name(s)". Please, put it where it belongs; somewhere like ELL… – Robbie Goodwin Apr 26 '18 at 21:37
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    I'm not an English Language Learner—but thanks for the subtle (and hopefully unintentional) insult. – AleksandrH Apr 26 '18 at 22:04
  • Is your question about subject-verb agreement or pluralization of "name"? – Azor Ahai Apr 27 '18 at 18:37
  • @AzorAhai Pluralization of name – AleksandrH Apr 28 '18 at 11:25
3

More broadly, one might consider four possibilities:

A. What is your first and last name?

B. What is your first and last names?

C. What are your first and last name?

D. What are your first and last names?

Of these,

A is the right choice if you only need one full name,

B is ungrammatical,

C is ungrammatical (One might think that the distributive property, X Z + Y Z = (X + Y) Z applies here, making "first and last name" equivalent to "first name and last name", which is plural. However, "first and last name" is singular)

D is not ungrammatical, but is less idiomatic, and may be construed as requesting multiple names (such as aliases),

  • Rest assured I'll award a bounty if no one else contributes. I'm really quite torn between A and D. The first is what you normally hear; the second is what intuitively seems correct, but it sounds wrong because, as you note, it can be interpreted as having multiple first names and multiple last names (though that's not the intended reading). – AleksandrH Apr 28 '18 at 0:53
  • @AleksandrH I agree. Logically speaking, it seems odd: you are asking for two items, but start the question with "What is". However, it's easy to check that it's the first form that's commonly used. One can simply do a phrase search in Google (with quotes). A should occur much more frequently than D. – MaxB Apr 28 '18 at 1:06
  • @MaxB I believe your answer A is correct. The same thing happens in English with a phone number, which is actually a collection of number groups (i.e. country code, area code, prefix, and line number.) I've often seen and heard people ask for "your country and area code" rather than "your country and area codes." I believe this is because both names and phone numbers are understood as being singular, and when we ask for specific "parts" of them, what we are really doing is asking for them in a particular form. – pablopaul Apr 28 '18 at 5:46
  • Returning to this a while later, I actually agree that the correct answer should be "What is your first and last name?" The particular case I was interested in for this question had to do with multiple people, not just a single person. It was my mistake for omitting that detail from the question. It should really have been "What are the first and last names of these people?", for example. – AleksandrH Sep 14 '18 at 20:57
2

Both are correct. As one man said, such is the beauteous efflorescence of the English language. With the rise of bureaucracies and the filling in of forms, we can imagine how "first and last name" came to be viewed as a collective noun.

1

A. What is your first and last name?

B. What are your first and last names?

Since "what is" agrees with "first and last name" and "what are" agrees with "first and last names" your question is really just between name and names.

"Which form is more commonly used by the people" is a question very different from "which is grammatically correct", although frequent and widespread use of a phrase, construction or idiom confers its own validity quite independent of grammatical correctness, which is determined by the formal "rules" of the language.

According to Google Ngrams, which is a powerful and credible indicator of how the language was/is (being) used, if not necessarily of strict grammatical correctness, both forms of the phrase, "first and last name" and "first and last names" have surprisingly near-identical pattern of use -- one is not used a lot more than the other[1]-- and both have been used with steeply increasing frequency since 1975:

Source: Google Ngrams

enter image description here

That makes both forms equally valid from a descriptive perspective and you can use "name" or "names" without changing the meaning.


[1]Update: OP @AleksandrH has reported in a comment that a google search for each of the 2 sentences in question was done as recommended by @MaxB and "What is your first and last name?" has about 250k more hits. It is worth noting that Google Ngrams searches books while Google search actually records how many people used the exact phrase as found in all online sources.

[So that is how people use it @AleksandrH: the overwhelming majority, I should think! 250k is a huge margin of difference... Thanks for the information. Thanks too to @MaxB for the insightful search suggestion. Grammatically correct is something else, but it is hardly relevant here, because the People have spoken: and the winner is "What is your first and last name?"]


As for strict grammatical correctness, only "what are your first and last names" is correct because they are 2 names, which is plural (except when a person has just one name in total, which is considered a mononym and not usually categorized as "first and last name"), but the way people speak is often more common-sensical than grammatical!

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    These phrases "first and last name(s)" are likely to be used in unrelated contexts. "My full name is John J. John. My first and last names are the same!" – MaxB Apr 28 '18 at 12:22
  • Hmm. It looks like if you bump up the upper bound to 2008, "first and last name" at some point overtakes "first and last names" in popularity. And then around 2005-ish, they both decline in usage (with "first and last name" still being more popular). – AleksandrH Apr 28 '18 at 12:26
  • Also what @MaxB said. Another example of an unrelated context is "Generally, people's first and last names tend to differ." – AleksandrH Apr 28 '18 at 12:35
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    @MaxB I see, I just did the search, and "What is your first and last name?" has about 250k more hits. – AleksandrH Apr 29 '18 at 0:09
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    Nice option @AleksandrH! I strongly recommend you wait a couple of days for further answers because they might quote a genuine grammatical rule or exception that is not known to us now. That would be instructive. As you know, accepting an answer or awarding a bounty tends to discourage new answers because people think that OP already got what he was looking for. (That's a general trend on Stack Exchange websites.) – English Student Apr 29 '18 at 13:01
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+100

I'll use MaxB's examples and labels:

A. What is your first and last name?

B. What is your first and last names?

C. What are your first and last name?

D. What are your first and last names?

I agree with MaxB that "D" is grammatical (as ma8 points out, "D" is obviously correct if we are asking about multiple first and last names, for example in a question addressed to multiple people) and "B" is ungrammatical.

"your first and last name"

It certainly seems to be the case that people say things like "first and last name", using the singular noun "name" rather than the plural noun "names". This trend is clearer if we use another possessive pronoun, since "your" can be plural or singular:

enter image description here

The Google Ngram Viewer indicates that in 2008, "his first and last name" was a bit more common than "his first and last names" (although they look close), "my first and last name" was more common than "my first and last names", and "her first and last name" was more common than "her first and last names".

C. What are your first and last name?

I disagree with MaxB's answer in that I don't think it's correct to characterize "C" as "ungrammatical". As MaxB points out, it can be interpreted "your first name and last name" with ellipsis of the first "name".

This structure seems to be used in published works: here are a few examples taken from Google Books of "a first and last name" being used as a plural noun phrase:

And of course you can find many examples online with a simple Google search.

Note that people say things like "both my first and last name", which I think would have to take plural verb agreement.

However, constructions like this do seem to be somewhat controversial, judging by the answers to the following question: "Both the first and the last [plural]" vs. "both the first and the last [singular]"

D. What are your first and last names? (said to a single person)

It does seem that it may be more common to use "first and last names" rather than "first and last name" when there is a following verb that takes plural agreement. The Google Ngram Viewer gives the following frequencies for "first and last name(s)" followed by "are" or "is" (as shown by the unexpected frequency of "first and last names is", there seem to be some false hits along the lines of "the importance of first and last names is", "compound names consisting of first and last names are", "the letters in his first and last name are", but I don't think those affect the result):

enter image description here

I don't agree with Hugh's answer because I think the frequencies of "is first and last" and "are first and last" are unlikely to be similar to the frequencies of "is your first and last name(s)" and "are your first and last name(s)".

A. What is your first and last name?

I'm not sure if I agree with MaxB's statement that "A is the right choice if you only need one full name", or Nick Uva's suggestion that "first and last name" can be interpreted as a "collective noun".

The only sense in which I'm sure it would be grammatical for me is unlikely to be encountered in practice: "The name that you had from the start and that you will continue to have till the end" (as in the sentence "That was the first and last time my mother yelled at me").

I would be more inclined to interpret it as somehow being an elliptical version of a question like "What is your first name, and what is your last name?"

I found the following bits of dialogue from novels that may help illustrate my point:

  • “Emergency operator, what is your name and your problem?”

    (Gargoyles in the Mist, by Jonathan Saville, 2011)

  • “Tell me child what is your name and age?”

    (In the Moonlight, by Sarah Helton, 2011)

Neither of these seems to have been edited very well, if at all, but I think that's irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make: that people do in fact sometimes use "What is X and Y" in situations where it seems unlikely to me that the coordinated noun phrases "X and Y" can be interpreted as referring to some single thing.

That said, I guess it does seem possible that this is a situation where "your first [name] and last name" is treated as an "X and Y" coordination that takes singular agreement, as discussed in Singular verb after two noun phrases joined by "and" that can be thought of as a single thing.

There is another, even more relevant question that I upvoted, but that unfortunately has no answer: "What is your name and height" or "What are your name and height"

  • Wow, very thorough response with sources throughout—gonna read through this multiple times to process all the info. Thank you very much! – AleksandrH Apr 29 '18 at 20:47
  • And the link at the end is also relevant to my question! – AleksandrH Apr 29 '18 at 20:48
-1

A. What is your first and last name?

D. What are your first and last names?

Isn't A asking one person for her first and last name while D would be used when asking a group of people for each person's first and last name? For example, if a cop wanted the names of everyone in a group who was caught smoking, she would ask, "What are your first and last names?" But, if she was only interested in the teenager who had supplied the cigarettes, she would ask, "What is your first and last name?"

-1

What is your first and last name? Answer: X and Y

What are your first and last names? Answer: X and Y

What are your first, middle and last names? Answer: X, Y, and Z

All equally valid and grammatically correct. In spoken use as a previously posted Ngram shows spoken and written can vary. Who cares if you are in a suspect line-up. But if writing a corporate biggie, always best to strive for correct grammar.

  • I'd say they're both poor formatting for questions. Consider starting them with what is / are if you want a question (which doesn't seem to be what the asker wants since he doesn't use question marks). – JJJ Apr 26 '18 at 21:44
  • @JJJ Perhaps "What is..." is simply the abbreviated form of "What is/are..." Whether you explain that simplification as ellipsis, or conformation, or musicality may be a matter of opinion and therefore forbidden on this site. – Hugh Apr 29 '18 at 1:17
  • @Hugh the answer has since been edited, my comment was aimed at the previous version. ;) – JJJ Apr 29 '18 at 1:21
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Here's the logic: You only have one legal, official name, and it is composed of parts. You're asking about two of those parts: the first, and the last. So to be grammatically correct, the question should therefore be posed:

  • What is your name (first and last)?

If you desire more complete information, ask:

  • What is your full name?

The question does not ask about nicknames or aliases, so there is no context for plurality.

  • Thanks! I agree these are both better alternatives. But this question is for a particular context where it's necessary to clarify that both the first name and last name, not just the full name, are of interest. – AleksandrH Apr 29 '18 at 20:29
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both work. although was often, first and family/christian name/s. again. the plural actually acts for the covering of MIDDLE name/s, if applicable.

  • middle names are counted as 'first names', to clarify – Adam Clowes Apr 27 '18 at 3:23
  • 'are' is for extension purpose. i.e TWO names. 'IS' is only adaptable to 'name'.hence. 'are' and 'names' as above – Adam Clowes Apr 27 '18 at 4:59
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I find both grammatically incorrect, instead, you should ask "What is your first and last name?"

I don't believe you'd ever hear someone say "What are your first and last name?" That seems wholly incorrect to me. B definitely seems more valid than A, though if possible, I'd stay away from using are.

  • @Aaron Yeah, I meant to write "What is your first and last name", not "What are you first and last name". – AleksandrH Apr 27 '18 at 22:56

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