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"What is" VS "What are"

You have words - now what do you do with them?

"What is" VS "What are"

Postby difuno » Mon Dec 12, 2005 8:51 am

Somebody says: "There are a lot of things on the table."

Then, here comes the question:

What is on the table?

or

What are on the table?

Which is the right expression here? Why?

I was told that "What is on the table?" is the only correct expression, there is never such an expression as "What are on the table?" Is that true? How come?
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Postby Apoclima » Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:34 pm

"There are things on the table!"

"What is on the table?"

"Things!"

I think that "what" is usually counted as singular unless a plural compliment is supplied, although I do think a plural is possible here, because "things" has been mentioned just before.

"There are things on the table!"

"What are on the table?"

"Things!"

Apo
'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck
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Postby tcward » Wed Dec 14, 2005 6:44 pm

And to supplement what Apo has already stated, it feels awkward to me to say "What are on the table?" I would probably say "What are those things on the table?"

-Tim
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Postby Apoclima » Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:17 am

I agree, Tim! I think I do hear it every once in a while though!

Apo
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