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Which of the following sentences is correct?

In the table, water usage in Brazil and America is compared.

or

In the table, water usage in Brazil and America are compared.

  • Note that the precise phrasing is important here. A sentence with essentially identical meaning could have a different answer: "In the table, Brazil and America are compared based on water usage." – Kamil Drakari Jun 5 '18 at 17:28
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Is compared. The subject is water usage, not America nor Brazil.

  • The head word of the subject NP is "usage". "Water" is a complement. – BillJ Jun 5 '18 at 15:33
  • arguably it's a compound noun, water usage. – Oliver Mason Jun 5 '18 at 16:11
  • @OliverMason I wouldn't go along with that, Oliver. "Water usage" is a syntactic construction (complement+head). It contrasts with morphological compounds, which are composed of two bases and which are single lexemes. Compare "greenhouse" vs "green house" – BillJ Jun 5 '18 at 19:13
  • @BillJ As most things in linguistics, it's a matter of interpretation. I can see your point, though I would call it a 'modifier' (I only use 'complement' in the syntactic sense). – Oliver Mason Jun 6 '18 at 7:37
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TLDR;

In the table, water usage in Brazil and America is compared

Elaborate answer

According to this source, if subjects are joined by "and", you determine the number of the verb by the following procedure: Split up the sentence into two and assess whether the meaning is still the same. If this is the case, the verb has to plural. Otherwise, it is singular.

For the sentence to be "are compared" we'd need

In the table, water usage in Brazil is compared.

and

In the table, warter usage in America is compared.

each to be senseful on their own, which they aren't. Therefore, we need a singular verb.

  • You got the right answer, but for the wrong reason. According to those rules, you would need to say "water usage in Brazil and America are increasing" and "schools in Brazil and America is compared." That's wrong. – Peter Shor Jun 6 '18 at 8:47

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