0

A similar question is here, in which a comma is used in place of a conjunction like and.

I came across the following quotation of C. S. Lewis which reads,

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

Assuming the website which quoted Lewis did not misquote him, should Lewis have used the plural verb, depend? Or is there some arcane rule of grammar of which I am unaware which allows for a plural subject and a singular verb?

4
  • The ship’s master and commander is breaking his fast alone in his quarters this morning per his custom — for bacon and eggs is all he ever takes this early, having learned the hard way that the officers’ beloved bangers and flapjacks is fare ill suited to his innards.
    – tchrist
    Dec 28 '19 at 1:47
  • @tchrist: Yeah, BUT, since when can a plural subject be identified as a singular subject later in the sentence? The sentence could just as easily (and as correctly) be worded, "“What you see and what you hear depend a great deal on where you are standing. They also depend on what sort of person you are.” Perhaps I'm being just too linear in my thinking! Don Dec 28 '19 at 2:24
  • Notional agreement is mostly up to the speaker, who gets to signal their mental state to the listener through said notional agreement. If you're looking for a selection of premade sandwiches and I tell you that ham and cheese is all I have left, you don’t get a choice of two possible sandwiches there, just one—and I have just told you this! “A couple of aces is good enough for the win, but that young couple over there at the corner table are always fighting.” It's always speaker’s choice, depending on what they want to say. Agreement isn’t cold arithmetic; it’s nuanced expressivity.
    – tchrist
    Dec 28 '19 at 2:28
  • @rhetorician, as per the question that you linked, the preceding adverb--"precious" in that case, "what" in this case--if not repeated is a good indicator that the noun clause is treated singular, kind of uncountable lumped together. In this case we see "what" repeated, indicating two individual things, as sound and visuals are (is?) not the same phenomen. Yet "depends" is 3rd p sg--why? Well, that's the beauty of it: the two phenomena, come from the same source, so the matrix clause immediately answers the embedded question. Though there's more to it, e.g. not appearing as subjunctive.
    – vectory
    Dec 28 '19 at 3:41
1

“What you see and what you hear” is treated as singular, not plural here, as you can see from the use of the word “it” instead of “they” at the start of the following sentence. Therefore, there is no plural subject.

1
  • Yeah, BUT, since when can a plural subject be identified as a singular subject later in the sentence? The sentence could just as easily (and as correctly) be worded, "“What you see and what you hear depend a great deal on where you are standing. They also depend on what sort of person you are.” Perhaps I'm being just too linear in my thinking! Don Dec 28 '19 at 2:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.