I am confused with the usage of was vs were in the following sentence:

The length of diameter of three plates X, Y, Z was/were 4, 5, 6 respectively.

I am not sure which one is correct: was or were.

Should it be "was" since it's referring to diameter?

  • 3
    I'd rephrase to The diameter lengths of three plates X, Y, Z were 4, 5, 6 respectively, where it seems pretty clear-cut that we'd naturally use the plural form. Mar 20, 2019 at 15:49
  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. You might find English Language Learners more suited to questions like this. I don't think you need to include "length" at all. The sentence could be phrased "The diameters of the three plates X,Y,Z were 4,5,6 respectively." Your difficulty is because you've used "length of diameter", which is singular, but you have three values (plural).
    – Pam
    Mar 20, 2019 at 15:49
  • Toss out "lengths" entirely. "The diameters of the three plates X, Y, and Z were 4, 5, and 6, respectively."
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 20, 2019 at 17:01

2 Answers 2


I guess that the sentence is the answer to question. So it is impossible to be sure sure whether the answer quoted is to a question, whose wording we do not have. But I should have said "The diameters of the three plates, X, Y and Z, were 4,5 and 6, respectively". The word 'length' is superfluous: a diameter is a length. Better still, "The three plates X,Y and Z **had diameters of 4,5 and 6, respectively.


The sentence is constructed poorly, but the correct conjugation is "was" because the subject in the sentence is 'length', not 'diameter' nor 'plates'.

  • As comments above indicate, it's truly better for comprehension to calrify the idea and remove 'length' from the sentence.
    – Splambo
    Jun 29, 2020 at 17:14

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