Consider the following examples:


1. Drinking and driving IS illegal

2. Drinking and driving ARE illegal

3. Stealing and murdering IS illegal

4. Stealing and murdering ARE illegal


According to me, #1 and #4 are correct. The "rule" that I apply is that if the two preceding verbs are combined into a single activity, then the singular form of the joining verb (IS) should be used. If the two preceding verbs are independent actions, then the plural form of the joining verb (ARE) should be used. No one in my office agrees with me, and I cannot find an authoritative guide anywhere online.

Any suggestions?

Verbs is are asked May 22 '13 at 08:12 Rael Dusheiko New member

3 answers


I agree with you. Drinking isn't illegal, and driving isn't illegal. It's only when they are combined into a single activity that it becomes illegal. Stealing and murder are illegal individually.

This may help your argument in the office.

Stealing and murdering ARE illegal. TRUE

Stealing is illegal. TRUE

Murdering is illegal. TRUE

Drinking and driving IS illegal. TRUE

Drinking IS illegal. FALSE

Driving IS illegal. FALSE


As Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage explains, “When the nouns form ‘a collective idea’ or ‘a oneness of idea,’ the singular verb is appropriate”

link comment edited May 22 '13 at 11:15 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

Ask your co-workers if "Drinking and Driving" is one activity, or two.

link comment answered May 22 '13 at 22:37 Tony Proano Expert

It seems to me that drinking and driving are two seperate activities.  Therefore are is correct.

If you mean driving under the spell of liquor, driving drunk is illegal is better. 

link answered May 25 '13 at 10:04 Z. A. Jazley Contributor

But if they are used as two separate activities they wouldn't be illegal, unless you were a woman in Saudi Arabia.

Jason Salim EvjenAug 14 '13 at 11:19

Example: Drinking and driving are illegal in Saudi Arabia for women.

Jason Salim EvjenAug 14 '13 at 11:20

add comment

Your answer

Write at least 20 characters

Have a question about English grammar, style or vocabulary use? Ask now to get help from Grammarly experts for FREE.