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I saw a printed T-Shirt with this sentence:

The best things in life are free wifi

I think it is not quite right. My arguments are:

  1. "Free" modifies "wifi", which means that "free" is an adjective and has no bearings on the verb form. "Wifi", however, is an uncountable noun, which means that it should always take a singular verb form. And this sentence used "things", that means it is a grammatical error. This sentence should be:

The best thing in life is free wifi

Because if "free wifi" should always take a singular verb form, in this case To Be -> "is", then the verb should belong to a singular subject, that's why "things" is wrong here.

  1. So if the subject is still "things", then the object has to be plural (the list of things), something like:

The best things in life are cookies

or, for example

The best things in life are free wifi and free education

Of course, if the original printed text has a special meaning to make us confused.

  • 4
    The slogan is a play on the expression "The best things in life are free." Changing the noun and verb in the slogan would weaken the pun and spoil the joke, in fact the 'incorrect' grammar is a large part of the comic effect. This is humour, normal grammatical rules do not apply. – BoldBen Apr 27 '18 at 9:10
  • Even with an etically countable non-count complement (My favourite possessions are furniture) there is a great risk of non-idiomaticity, though 'Chairs are furniture' is probably acceptable. I'd say this example is non-standard. Doubtless a great selling point. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 27 '18 at 9:32
  • @BoldBen - I could see two options here: 1. Close the question. This seems unfair to me, it's quite a well written question. 2. Write an answer that is almost exactly what you've said in your comment. So I've just copy-pasted your comment as a community wiki. Happy to remove/delete etc. if you prefer. – AndyT Apr 27 '18 at 10:06
  • @BoldBen I upvoted this short and clear reply. But are you sure ‘pun’ is the right word here. usually, ‘pun’ applies to a play on the meaning of a word. The word ‘free’ means exactly what it does in the old saying. So I looked online. I found one piece of research into wordplay in which plays on grammar are described as punning (science direct.com) by Partington. On Hotspot I found what is a very funny pun, which seems at least partially grammatical, Pic of a question and an exclamation mark. One says to the other: “I’ll never date another Apostrophe. The last one was too possessive.” – Tuffy Apr 27 '18 at 11:03
  • @AndyT Thanks for that! I'm more than happy for it to stay. – BoldBen Apr 28 '18 at 20:11
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Converting BoldBen's comment to an answer:

The slogan is a play on the expression "The best things in life are free."

Changing the noun and verb in the slogan would weaken the pun and spoil the joke, in fact the 'incorrect' grammar is a large part of the comic effect.

This is humour, normal grammatical rules do not apply.

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