Teaching ESL

grammar question
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Author:  Bart [ Sat Dec 27, 2008 4:53 pm ]
Post subject:  grammar question

My coworker asked me why we say: 'what color ARE my shoes?' instead of 'what color IS my shoes?'. After all, we're only talking about one color. I asked someone else who said you can use both. Another coworker insisted you have to use 'are'. But nobody seems to know for sure and I'm totally confused now. Can anyone shed some light on this?

Author:  mesmark [ Sat Dec 27, 2008 5:41 pm ]
Post subject: 

Interesting question.

I believe the answer is 'are'. The subject of the sentence is not the color but the shoes. If you return the 'what color' to the predicate, you get:

My shoes are what color?

My shoes are blue.

not *My shoes is blue.

'color' can't act as the subject here. The only way to do it that I can think of is to change the question to:

What is the color of his shoes?

*Blue is the color of his shoes.
*The color of his shoes is blue.

While I can find examples where we might ask the question like that, I have placed an * next to the answers because for me those would be awkward/unnatural answers.

the natural answer being:

His shoes are blue.

Author:  andiusaugustus [ Mon Dec 29, 2008 9:57 am ]
Post subject: 

I agree. The subject in this situation is "shoes". As it is plural "are" is required.

Interesting question. I've never encountered that situation before.

Author:  markg [ Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

Exactly. The subject is what is being considered, and whether or not it is singular or plural.

Author:  Bart [ Tue Dec 30, 2008 6:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

Well, that answers the question then. Thanks a lot.

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