I understand that you should use 'is' for singular and 'are' for plural, but in this sentence I am not sure which applies.

Take the sentence

Bees are an important part of our ecosystem.

Let's say I wanted to reword it so that the subject is at the end of the sentence. Which of these two is correct?

An important part of our ecosystem are bees.

An important part of our ecosystem is bees.

To me they both sound wrong, so I want to know how I can determine correct grammar in these cases.

  • To be honest I wouldn't rephrase it. The original is fine but I would find it difficult to rephrase it in the way you are suggesting. Both of your attempts sound clumsy to me. What is your reason for wanting to rephrase?
    – BoldBen
    Feb 27, 2021 at 11:18
  • @BoldBen This is just an example but one might want to write something like "an important part of our ecosystem is bees, which...". Obviously I could rewrite this as well and avoid the problem but I'm really asking about the underlying grammar in cases like this, not this particular sentence. Feb 27, 2021 at 11:24
  • @EdwinAshworth Thanks for the link. That discussion is quite technical but if I understand it correctly, then it should be "...is bees"? Feb 27, 2021 at 11:36
  • Yes. Although it is sometimes arguable, the noun phrase (some would say determiner phrase) at the start of a sentence with the verb 'be' is almost always considered to be the subject. And verb agreement is always with the subject, never the complement (as here) or object (where applicable). // These mis-matched pairings often sound rather awkward even when they're grammatical. Surprisingly, I find 'Bees form an important part of our ecosystem' not to present even the slight jar I feel with 'Bees are an important part of our ecosystem'. Feb 27, 2021 at 16:11
  • I don't find that strange at all @EdwinAshworth. The word 'form conveys the idea that each individual bee is a subcomponent of an important part of the ecosystem which the word 'are' does not convey.
    – BoldBen
    Feb 27, 2021 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


I am not really good in English, but I have an opinion that may be correct. As I know, the form of "be" defines from an attached noun. Here your noun is plural (bees), so I have no reasons to write "is" there.

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