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Dear users of StackExchange

I came across this sentence which can be seen below:

"Finding quiet places have become very difficult in today’s noisy society."

I found the sentence on a website that helps students with English.

Upon further investigation, I learned that numerous people on the website stated the fact that the subject "Finding quiet places" is singular and therefore "have" must be corrected to "has".

At first glance, this sounds odd to me. Isn't the subject "Finding quiet places" plural? Furthermore, I couldn't get a well-explained answer to why "have" should be "has" instead. This is so confusing!

Can anyone help me with my question? Please do know that your help is greatly appreciated!

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    The first thing that came to my mind when I read it was "this was not written by a native speaker". We make lots of mistakes, but we don't make that kind of mistake very much at all. – John Lawler Jan 3 at 19:58
  • If "Finding quiet places" is plural because of the s in "places", is finding gold singular because of gold and finding berries back to plural? – Yosef Baskin Jan 3 at 19:59
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"Finding quiet places have become very difficult in today’s noisy society."

This is incorrect. The formal subject is "finding". Note that, in English, the grammatical function of the gerund is distinct from that of the the present participle. A gerund can be the subject or object of a sentence.

Example

I am walking. (present participle of "to walk")

I like walking. (gerund "walking" is the direct object of "like")

Answer

The skeleton structure of the sentence is

"Finding has become difficult."

and the complete sentence is:

"Finding quiet places has become very difficult in today’s noisy society

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    Your answer was most helpful! You have my heartfelt thanks for your assistance! It all makes sense now! :-) – El-Shrimpo Jan 3 at 20:48
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    This is incorrect in that the subject is not finding but the entire clause finding quiet places. Compare (1) People calling too early bother me. (2) People calling too early bothers me. Those are both correct but mean different things. Notice the number changes. – tchrist Jan 3 at 21:03
  • @tchrist - I understand your point. I'm sure many will agree with you. I put it this way for didactic purposes. I could argue my point but that would just reflect my feelings about the inadequacies of English grammar in its current formulation by "experts". – chasly - supports Monica Jan 3 at 21:16
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    The point is that non-finite subject clauses take singular agreement. – BillJ Jan 4 at 10:18
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No. All nonfinite clauses used as the subject always take a singular verb in the predicate:

  • To see problems is easier than to fix them.
  • Seeing problems is easier than fixing them.

Only nouns and pronouns can take plural agreement, never clauses.

  • Problems are easier to see than to fix.
  • They are easier seen than fixed.
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