Please consider the following sentences: 1. I want you to know that IT'S the decisions you should make. 2. I want you to know that THEY ARE the decisions you should make.

which one is the more natural?

  • I don't really know what you mean by either (1) or (2). So I would say neither one is a very good English sentence. – Peter Shor Mar 2 '19 at 17:24

This is a matter of usage rather than numerical agreement.

With “it’s the decisions”, the word decisions is used in the abstract. It doesn’t refer to any particular decision.

When you say “they’re the decisions”, the word decisions refers to a specific set of decisions.

So “it’s the decisions you should make” is an exhortation to make decisions, while “they’re the decisions you should make” urges the adoption of a specific set of decisions.

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  • Thanks lawrence. But I often find IT IS followed by a plural noun, especially when it bears the sense of "that" or "this", like: who is that? IT IS us. I really want to holistically understand this usage. – Fadli Sheikh Mar 8 '19 at 23:39
  • In “it is us”, “is” has to agree with “it”, not “us”. In “X verb Y”, normally the verb would need to agree with X. – Lawrence Mar 9 '19 at 11:16
  • Yeah I know, but what is the reason for using IT for the plural noun US? The exact reason? – Fadli Sheikh Mar 10 '19 at 23:56
  • @FadliSheikh It depends on the context. Sometimes it is used as a dummy subject (like it is raining). Sometimes it’s because a preceding question asked for something in the singular (e.g. “What was under the bed?” “It was kittens”), etc. – Lawrence Mar 11 '19 at 14:12
  • I see. You really are an expert, Lawrence. Thanks a lot. By the way, can we say "it" is sometimes a counterpart of "that/those/this/these"? – Fadli Sheikh Mar 13 '19 at 23:03

Sentence (1) is wrong. "it" will only be followed by a plural noun in cleft sentences (where emphasis is sought), for example:

  1. I want you to know that it's your decisions that count.

Sentence (2) sounds strange because the pronoun "they" is not sufficiently deictic, that is, it does not clearly point to the referent. A plural demonstrative would fit in much better:

  1. I want you to know that these / those (the ones you have mentioned / the ones that have been proposed) are the decisions you should make.
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  • 1
    I am not sure I agree with this. What the OP appears to want to say is that "it is the decisions (and not the actions/arguments etc) that you should make". In other words it is a "cleft sentence" and your example (3) is the one applicable, not (4). – WS2 Mar 2 '19 at 10:22
  • @WS2 I see your point. There is ambiguity as to whether "(that) you should make" is a relative clause or the second part of a cleft sentence. I felt inclined to interpret it as a relative because the verb "make" will not easily accept other abstract nouns like "decisions", at least within the context of the given sentence. – Gustavson Mar 2 '19 at 10:50
  • If the "that" clause is a "cleft sentence," it can be restated, albeit less effectively, as "... that you should make the decisions." If that's what the OP means, then "It's" is the right word. If, however, the OP means @Gustavson (4), then "they are" is correct, but with his proposed fix ("these" or "those"). Let's ask the asker... – remarkl Mar 2 '19 at 13:54
  • Guys, thanks for your various answers. Actually, I just want to know whether IT IS may be followed by a plural noun to that extent because I often find IT IS followed by a plural noun when the noun is regarded as a group, like the following: A: Who is knocking at the door? B: IT IS them. We all know the phrase "THEY ARE them" here would be completely ungrammatical, neither would it sound logical, but why? Would anyone provide me with one simple explanation of this matter? – Fadli Sheikh Mar 8 '19 at 23:37

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