which is correct please. The only exception is Bob and Jim. Or, the only exception are Bob and Jim? Thank you.

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  • The second is flat out wrong -- should be "the only exceptions are Bob and Jim". But, with that correction, either sense could be correct, depending on context. – Hot Licks Apr 9 at 22:18
  • Much obliged. The context is, 'All must attend training. The only exception is/are Bob and Jim'. – Tas Apr 9 at 22:24
  • Are Bob and Jim one of several two-man teams, or are they individuals who just happened to be grouped in the "no training" group? – Hot Licks Apr 9 at 22:25
  • Ahm, they are a part of staff..hope that helps? We don't have two-man teams. Only two of them are the exceptions, as they have done the training already. Training is mandatory, (so there can't ever be a 'no training group', (sadly-would make life easier if it were so). – Tas Apr 9 at 22:32

If there are two exceptions, i.e. Bob and Jim, I would change your sentences so that you use the plural form.

"The only exceptions are Bob and Jim."


If Bob and Jim are a married couple and the people with whom they are being compared are also couples then Bob and Jim could be considered to be a single entity for purposes of comparison. You might see a sentence like this:

Most of the households in our block are heterosexual couples; the only exception is Bob and Jim.

However it is more likely that they will be compared separately with other individuals and you might see a sentence like this:

Most of the members of our team have completed the diversity training module. The exceptions are Bob and Jim.

So, as Parever has said, when there is one exception you say "the only exception is ..." but when there is more than one exception you say "the only exceptions are..." (note the plural 's' on exceptions).There are no circumstances where you could say "the only exception are..." since "exception" is singular and "are" is plural so they do not match.


If the context is asking for a couple, you are right that it would be "The only exception is Bob and Jim". In context: "All the couples at the party aren't in love. The only exception is Bob and Jim who are kissing right now." Here it would be untrue to say that Bob is an exception because he alone is not. Only together with Jim he qualifiés as an exception.

Otherwise, I would use "The only exceptions are Bob and Jim". To clarify that both Bob and Jim are an exception. If this is the case, the three statements - One exception is Bob. - One exception is Jim. - There are no other exceptions. are true.

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