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Could anyone enlighten me on this:

"What he needs is / are two roses - one for Diane, and another for Cindy."

Should the singular be used here (where "two roses" is seen as an entity of its own), and in all other cases, or should the plural be used here since it later elaborates whom the roses are for?
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With the "two" (obviously plural) immediately after the verb, to my ears, only the plural verb sounds right.
AnonymousCould anyone enlighten me on this:

"What he needs is / are two roses - one for Diane, and another for Cindy."

What he needs is two roses - one for Diane, and another for Cindy.

Two roses - one for Diane, and another for Cindy - are what he needs.
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To me the subject is what he needs. I sense singularity in all such noun phrases headed by what. It follows that I interpret the plural on the other side of the equative structure as a unit.

What he needs is two roses. (A grouping of) Two roses is what he needs. (A pair of roses is ...)
What I want is ten tickets. (A block of) Ten tickets is what I want.
What we found in the article was twelve errors. (A set of) Twelve errors was what we found.


And yet: Two roses are needed. Twelve errors were found.

CJ
I can't (and wouldn't!) argue with the logic of "What he needs" as the subject, but I was going by ear - what you are likely to hear. And yet, the song "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" tells me that my ear as well as my logic is flawed. Sorry Emotion: sad
It's quite possible that the structure is handled differently in different geographical regions.
My way of doing it is the way I'm used to hearing it. It doesn't mean yours is wrong.
Maybe we need to take a poll?

CJ
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Grammar GeekI can't (and wouldn't!) argue with the logic of "What he needs" as the subject, but I was going by ear - what you are likely to hear. And yet, the song "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" tells me that my ear as well as my logic is flawed. Sorry Emotion: sad
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.

What I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.

I believe your ear, as well as your logic, is not flawed.
Hi, I already asked a similar question, and I was told that a plural verb sounds good (as GG said), anyway a singular verb is acceptable too (Jim's first choice). I like a plural verb more though, like GG (sorry Jim! Emotion: stick out tongue)

So you can say both "What I need is two roses" and "What I need are two roses". Here's something I found on the net when I was struggling with this problem:

http://www.bartleby.com/68/45/245.html

Emotion: smile
Good link, Kooyeen, thanks.

I love this line: "the notional attraction from the plural predicate nominatives will tend to make the plural are the choice" - uh, yeah. While I actually do understand that, can people who don't work with this stuff every day make sense of things like that? I guess "notional attraction" is what leads to the are just "sounding better to my ear."
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