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This is a question I've been wondering about for some time, and I finally came across an example today that I can quote. Consider this sentence (from):

No longer is the main primary exchanges the only option for executing orders.

At my first reading the "is" seemed to clash with the plural of "exchanges", however it may be read as applying to the singular "option".

What is the rule in such a phrase?

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  • Would someone who is more familiar with the details of the question and the common practices of this site please amend the question title and tags? Thank you. Nov 21 '12 at 10:14
  • 1
    That's really awkward. How about "No longer is using the main primary exchanges the only option for executing orders"? That introduces a singular noun [using] closer to the main verb.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 21 '12 at 10:16
  • I agree that it is an awkward sentence. I'm interested in knowing if it's considered grammatically incorrect as it stands. It's a pattern I come across about once a month, and often in places that one could reasonably expect a decent level of English usage, such as this academic paper. Nov 21 '12 at 10:26
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I'd use are: "The main primary exchanges are no longer the only option for executing orders" is the way the sentence reads with normal syntax, so there's no reason to change the verb to "is" as was done in your example. The only option is not the subject of the copula.

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  • Maybe the is comes from this restructuring: The only option for executing orders is no longer the primary exchanges. Also, the O.P.'s quoted sentence is awkward, but the structure isn't necessarily so. If I had a deli that offered only roast beef sandwiches, but I decided to put a vegetarian option on my menu, a reviewer could write, "No longer is roast beef the only option for sandwich orders," which has the same basic structure but reads just fine.
    – J.R.
    Nov 21 '12 at 10:56
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    @J.R.: Yes, perhaps your restructured sentence is the source, but that seems weird to me too. Shouldn't that be Executing orders is no longer restricted to the single option of the main primary exchanges? Your new sentence suggests that a single option has been completely replaced by another single option: still no choice, but the OP's sentence suggests that a new option has been added: two options now. I disagree that the delicatessen sentence structure is the same. It'd have to be "No longer is roast beef sandwiches the only option for sandwich orders". Different from the OP's ex., no?
    – user21497
    Nov 21 '12 at 11:07
  • Yes, adding "sandwiches" completes the parallel. Nice catch.
    – J.R.
    Nov 21 '12 at 12:15
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"Is" is correct in the way the author uses it, I think, because he intends to mean "main primary exchanges" as one (singular) thing/concept. Also, he uses "option" (singular).

If, in the context of the paper, the author means "main primary exchanges" as a plural, then "is" should, for best understanding, be "are", I think. In that case, "options" should be meant, too.

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