Compound Subjects: Does the “and” Make It Plural?
Generally when there’s an “and” between nouns, we tend to think that this creates a plural subject. For example, “My boyfriend and I are skating” means that two people are doing something, so the subject is plural.
If the two subjects being joined by “and” are separate and distinct, then use a plural verb.
Example: His boldness and charisma make him a great speaker.
Because it is possible to possess one of these qualities without the other, boldness and charisma are considered two separate ideas.
However, in some cases, subjects can contain an “and” and be singular.
Example: Milk and cookies makes a great midnight snack.
Example: Spaghetti and meatballs is his favorite food.
In both sentences, two items are being joined to create a single dish.
Sometimes the issue of compound subjects can get a little tricky. Take the following sentence: “His wife and business partner likes swimming.” Assuming that the man’s wife is also his business partner, this sentence is correct. However, if you are trying to say that two individual people, the wife and the business partner, both enjoy swimming, then the verb should be “like.”
When deciding if compound subjects are singular or plural, try to think about whether the items or ideas being joined form a single unit. If you’re still unsure, try rewriting the sentence to avoid the problem altogether.