Can't agree on the subject of this sentence


We are having a discussion about subject verb agreement. Is the subject "the power and portability" or "the new phone?" Obviously, this would make a difference on if I should use arrive or arrives for the verb.

Thanks for your help.

See example:

The power and portability of the new phone arrive today
asked Nov 07 '12 at 23:56 Catherine Schneider New member

2 answers


It's 'power and portability', a compound subject. Phone is the object of the preposition of.

Now you have to decide whether the compound subject is truly plural. Normally it would take the plural verb as you have written, but this sounds awkward to me. Because power and portability are inseparable in the phone, I think they could be considered a unit and take the singular verb. I think would agree and others would disagree.


The power and portability of the new phone arrive today.

The power and portability of the new phone arrives today.


You could also procrastinate and take the chicken's way out.


The power and portability of the new phone arrived yesterday.

link comment answered Nov 08 '12 at 00:04 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

The phrase "power and portabilty" is the subject.  The object of a preposition, in this case "phone," can never be a subject.  


I can't concur, however, with the answer suggesting that power and portability are inseparable, and thus indicate a singular subject matched with a singular verb.  Awkward though it sounds, I hear a compound subject here: not one but two things are arriving in my phone today.  If these two features - power and portability - were combined in all telephones, we wouldn't need two words to distinguish them.  All phones have power, not all phones are portable.  Thus I would favor:


The power and portability of the new phone arrived today.


To my ear, what makes the sentence awkward is not its grammar, but the implied personification of power and portability.  I would probably rewrite this as:


The new phone arrived today, with its power and portability.

link comment answered Nov 12 '12 at 15:12 Jeffrey Pressman New member

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