Ham and Eggs is or are?

background image 118

Graham Broadley asks:

Should it be: where is my fifty dollars or where are my fifty dollars. Most people would say is, would they be correct? Surely are would be more correct, being plural, right?


When the subject stands for a definable unit, such as money, measurement, time, organization and food combinations, the verb is indeed singular:

Where is my fifty dollars?
Three months is not enough time to write such a long novel.
Ham and eggs is my favorite breakfast.

According to the Southern Writing Center guide (pdf):

When the compound subject is joined by and but represents a single idea or person, the compound subject is treated as a unit and a singular verb is used.

Example: Ham and eggs is a popular breakfast dish. (Ham and eggs refers to a single dish.)

When a compound subject joined by and is preceded by each or every, a singular verb is used.

Example: Every student and teacher has to wear a uniform. (The singular verb has agrees with every, not student and

The careful writer will make sure that the singular verb is used with such compounds.

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

12 thoughts on “Ham and Eggs is or are?”

  1. Hi Maeve, This refers to your post, ‘Ham and eggs is or are’. I work for an economic research agency and have a question for you. Which of these statements is correct and why?
    1. Sales of the auto industry declines by 3.1% in December quarter
    2. Sales of the auto industry decline by 3.1% in December quarter

  2. The 1st is the right option. Sales is not really plural here. “Sale of the auto industry” doesnt mean the same as “Sales of the auto industry”. Do you see the difference? Since “sales” is singular, it would be the 1st option which uses “declines” – the verb form corresponding to singular noun.

  3. Hi Krishna,
    Personally, I’d have the sales IN the auto industry declining … unless you were actually selling car factories …

  4. Krishna,
    “Sales of the auto industry declines by 3.1% in December quarter”

    I would have said,
    Auto industry sales declined (or declines, if the December quarter hasn’t eneded, or been completed, yet) by 3.1% in the December quarter.

    It is the sales, as a measurement or name of a concept, that declined, not any of the transactions that the concept “sales” represents.

  5. True story. My friends had breakfast in a diner here in Texas. The husband said ..”boy these grits are good”.His wife said …”No you say these grits is good” …finally the waitress came by and said…”ain’t them grits good”?

  6. Thanks for your suggestions Rajagopal, Emma and Brad. For now, I’ve decided to stick with ‘Sales of the auto industry declines by 3.1% in December quarter’ because ‘Sales’ here represents a numerical measurement, not the various transactions that the concept “sales” represents. Krishna

  7. First, I always keep a Beatles lyric in the back of my mind to help me decide about singular or plural verbs in this case:

    Eight days a week
    Is not enough to show I care.

    Second, let’s change the order of Krishna’s headline around so that it reads “Auto industry sales decline/declines by 3.1%”. We can see now that “decline” is the better verb choice. In the original order the prepositional phrase “of the auto industry” deflects attention away from the obvious fact that “sales” is a plural noun and therefore requires a verb without final s.

  8. Ham and eggs are. The use of the conjunction makes it a unit, but the plural of eggs demands the use of are. If it the second noun were singular, then the verb would be singular as well.

  9. Sorry, Shelley, but “ham and eggs” is a phrase acting together to constitute a single dish of food and thus takes the singular verb. I would say “Ham and eggs is my favorite breakfast dish”.

    If we were thinking of them as items on our shopping list, on the other hand, ham and eggs would take a plural verb, as in “Ham and eggs are on my list”.

  10. I’m vegetarian … saves a lot of bother, cos I just have the eggs 😉

    However, I’d agree with those that see “Ham and eggs” as a breakfast dish & thus singular.

Leave a Comment