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I was a little frustrated today when I came across someone insisting that

"All I had today WAS two pieces of pizza"

is an incorrect sentence.

It's true that this can be written "All I had today WERE two pieces of pizza."

However, I'm fairly sure this is the same as certain "what" clauses, i.e:

"What I lack ARE words"

"What I lack IS words"

Both of those latter sentences are standard English (American Heritage Usage confirms this)

Can anyone confirm my reasoning that formulations such as "All I had today..." operate similarly?

That is to say, can anyone confirm that both "All I had today was two pieces of pizza" and "All I had today were two pieces of pizza" are standard?
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Both are used, that's for sure. Purists may prefer All I had today was two pieces of pizza because all is the subject of the main clause and does not refer to people. Thus it should be followed by a singular verb, as in:

All is well that ends well.

When all refers to people, a plural verb is needed:
All are present. (= Everybody is present.)

However, I am not a purist and don't object to All I had today were two pieces of pizza in the least.

Cheers
CB
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CalifJimTo me, all in this sentence means the entire sum, the total amount, and when such expressions are subjects, their verbs are singular.
Same here.
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Comments  
I guess I'm a purist on this one. Emotion: smile

To me, all in this sentence means the entire sum, the total amount, and when such expressions are subjects, their verbs are singular. It is not particularly common, I think, to force agreement between a linking verb and its complement.

CJ
 Marius Hancu's reply was promoted to an answer.
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