Section 5.141 in the Spotlight

False Attraction to a Predicate Noun

We all know that a singular noun subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject requires a plural verb.

  • My favorite is the giraffe.
  • My favorites are nasturtiums and dahlias.

And we usually aren’t thrown by a plural subject with a singular predicate:

  • Nasturtiums are my favorite.

But somehow doubt tends to arise when a singular noun subject is linked to a plural predicate noun. Nothing sounds right:

  • My favorite is giraffes?
  • My favorite are giraffes?

In fact, as CMOS 5.141 (17th ed.) explains, the singular noun favorite requires a singular verb (in this case, is) no matter what follows: my favorite is giraffes.

Any time all the choices sound odd, another option is to rearrange the sentence into something more pleasing:

  • Giraffes are my favorite.

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