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Hi,

When two things are one thing, how do we decide if the verb should be singular or plural?

Tearing down an engine and rebuilding it again are a difficult job.

Tearing down an engine and rebuilding it again are difficult work.

Tearing down an engine and rebuilding it again take patience.

Thanks, - A.
Comments  
Here are the correct versions of these sentences:
- Tearing down an engine and rebuilding it again is a difficult job.
- Tearing down an engine and rebuilding it again is difficult work. (notice that "work" is uncountable")

- Tearing down an engine and rebuilding it again takes patience.

The reason that "tearing down and engine and rebuilding it" is singular is that these can both be seen as steps within one action. You would only use plural if it's clear that these are two different actions. To do that, use "both":

-Tearing down an engine and rebuilding one are both difficult jobs.

In this sentence, you're saying that 1) Tearing down an engine is difficult. 2) Rebuilding an engine is difficult.

In your original sentence, you were saying that 1) Tearing down and then rebuilding an engine is difficult.

Does that make sense?
~Aaron
Thanks, Aaron. Yes, your points make sense.

There's a juicy term (------- concord) which I can't think of at the moment, describing situations in which one may choose a singular or plural verb, depending on what's in one's mind (eg, "the group is/are"). It's then up to the reader to interpret accordingly.
Sometimes the application of the rule is clear, and sometimes it's controversial. I'm not sure exactly where 2-part processes fit in.

Ah, yes: "notional concord."

What do you think of, "The economic downturn has affected people of all stripes, but chief among them is the elderly." ?? (not necessarily factual) Emotion: smile

(I still can't find the example I'm looking for.)