Someone says I need to use "was", someone says to use "were". Which one is correct?

What I saw were a driver and an attendant.


What I saw was a driver and an attendant.

  • Was is more natural here. What is usually singular, and so it sets the brain up to expect the singular verb was.
    – Anonym
    May 19, 2018 at 5:00
  • 1
    @Anonym "What were you doing?" "What were their names?" Hmm... not sure if I agree with your analysis.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 19, 2018 at 6:22
  • Possible duplicate of Confusing rule about subject-verb agreement
    – Bread
    May 20, 2018 at 3:29
  • If it was an individual sighting, then what I saw (on Tuesday) was ... If it were two separate sightings then what I saw (on Tuesday, then on Friday) were ... I think it is a conceptual matter (in this case).
    – Nigel J
    May 20, 2018 at 11:21
  • @Mari-LouA In your first example what is the object and in your second the complement. What must be the subject in order to force singular agreement. You're right that my initial analysis was lacking.
    – Anonym
    May 25, 2018 at 23:35

1 Answer 1


When you start with "What", you're referring to an incident or object that you've seen. So it seems more appropriate to use the pair what ... was like you were answering a question What was it that you saw? So say it like this:

What I saw was a driver and an attendant.

But you could indicate that you're referring to the people and say it like this:

The ones I saw were a driver and attendant.

  • Devil's advocate here: and if the subject was "we" would you still say "What we saw was a driver and an attendant"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 19, 2018 at 6:20
  • @Mari-LouA yes, it seems correct to use it like "what we saw was..."
    – itsols
    May 19, 2018 at 6:33
  • I remember seeing a similar question on ELL, the most upvoted answer seems to suggest that either "was" or "were" would be acceptable.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 19, 2018 at 6:46

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