A Fine Point of Grammar — “Is” or “Are”?

Margie Wakeman Wells General Leave a Comment

This sentence is from an English exam:

“Kay is one of the women who (is/are) (inferring/implying) that from what she read.

So let’s first say that speakers and writers “imply” and readers and listeners “infer.” So that answer is INFER.

The verb form you are looking for is in a dependent clause here; it is not the subject and verb in the main sentence.

If, indeed, the word “one” were the subject of the sentence and there were a prepositional phrase after it, then you would ignore the prepositional phrase and choose a singular verb to go with “one.”

…One of the men in the offices IS…
…One of the issues in cases like these WAS…

When the verb is in the dependent clause with the subject “who/that/which” the issue is that these pronouns do not have any number built into them. They can be singular or plural.

…boy who is…
…boys who are…

…car that is…
…cars that are…

…book which is…
…books which are…

So we have to have another way to choose the verb in a dependent clause. We decide the verb form in the clause from the form of the word it modifies. In this case, the choice is between these two:

…one who is…
…women who are…

We must look to the meaning in the sentence.

Is it saying that Kay is the one woman who is inferring something?


Is it saying that there are many women inferring something and that Kay is one of those many women?

There are really several women inferring this, and Kay is one of them.

So the clause modifies “women,” and the verb is plural: ARE.

Here are some other examples:

…Ms. Ray is one of the employees who are going to get a raise.
…Scott is one of the members who are going to resign.

…Ms. Ray is the only one of the employees who is going to get a raise.
…Scott is the only one of the members who is going to resign.

What a great language!! You can have this kind of fun and more in my mini grammar class in May and June!!!

Happy punctuating!


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