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Is it 'give' or 'gives' in this context? The 'give' follows a list of singular items. I would have thought it would only be 'give' if the listed items are plural but a colleague has brought it to my attention.

e.g. '...stringent testing and uncompromising quality controls give our customers...'

e.g. '...stringent testing and uncompromising quality control gives our customers...'

3 Answers 3

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If you're saying that each one of the items gives confidence, then use plural agreement:

  • ...stringent testing and uncompromising quality controls give our customers....

If you're saying that the confidence comes from the gestalt of the three items together, use singular agreement:

  • ...stringent testing and uncompromising quality controls gives our customers....

You can consider this a generalisation of the treatment of compound nouns:

Rule 4. As a general rule, use a plural verb with two or more subjects when they are connected by and.

Example: A car and a bike are my means of transportation.

But note these exceptions:

Exceptions:

Breaking and entering is against the law.

The bed and breakfast was charming.

In those sentences, breaking and entering and bed and breakfast are compound nouns.

- grammarbook.com

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    Quite right. When interpreting it as a gestalt, it would be the equivalent of prefacing the list with the combination of. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 16:47
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A subject of the form A, B and C is definitely plural, so you have to use give here. Perhaps you are confusing this with a sentence such as:

Our policy of extensive planning, stringent testing and uncompromising quality control gives our customers confidence in our products.

Here the subject, our policy, is singular.

Native English speakers are often sloppy where such distinctions are in play, so don't assume that everything you read is correct.

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  • Thank you. I couldn't quite figure out why. As a native English speaker, I'm on the side of those constantly trying to improve, I'd always rather be corrected!
    – HMWDesign
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 11:43
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Give. If you used "or" instead of "and" could have been gives.

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