4

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.

or

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 '18 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 '18 at 6:22
  • Possible duplicate of Confusing rule about subject-verb agreement – Bread May 20 '18 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 '18 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 '18 at 23:35
4

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 '18 at 6:20
  • @Mari-LouA yes, it seems correct to use it like "what we saw was..." – itsols May 19 '18 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 '18 at 6:46

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.