Using Singular vs. Plural Verb after a Relative Pronoun
If you apply some simple rules, you will be able to see through many tricks. Consider this example:
The group of people that is over there is quite large.
The “is” in bold refers to the group, rather than to people. “Group” is an example of a collective noun. Collective nouns are singular on the GMAT. Other examples include family, committee, faculty, team etc. Notice that the verb immediately after the relative pronoun is singular. However, be careful with the next Sentence Correction problem, which we’ve borrowed from the Economist GMAT Tutor database:
As surprising as it may seem, in the medium-long term Iceland is one of the places that are most likely to benefit from global warming.
A) are most likely to benefit from
B) is most likely to benefit from
C) are likely to benefit from
D) is likely to benefit from
E) are most likely to benefit
Working through your answer options
When you look at the first word in each answer option, you can quickly deduce that this question is about a singular / plural issue.
Next, notice the presence of the relative pronoun “that” in the question. The most important relative pronouns for our purposes are “who,” “which,” and “that.” In this case, the rule is that the verb that follows the relative pronoun must agree in number with the word that comes immediately before the relative pronoun. Notice in this sentence that the word “places” comes before the relative pronoun “that.” Therefore, the verb that follows the relative pronoun must be plural to agree with “places.” This is because of the special construction “one of the + plural + relative pronoun.”
- Now that you know the verb following the relative pronoun must be plural, you can eliminate answer options B and D.
- Notice how answer option C changes the meaning of the original sentence. ‘Likely’ is not the same as ‘most likely.’ So, you can eliminate C.
- The elimination of the preposition “from” in answer option E changes the meaning of the original sentence completely. Therefore, eliminate E.
- That leaves only one option: A is correct.
In summary, remember the important rule that in the special construction “one of the + plural + relative pronoun” the verb that follows the relative pronoun agrees in number with the word that comes immediately before the relative pronoun. The verb is therefore plural. Remembering such relatively simple rules will make you feel more secure about Sentence Correction and will allow you to spend more time on other more difficult questions.
This post appeared first on the Economist GMAT Tutor blog.