Submitted by Dyske  •  November 8, 2002

What is / What are

“These are not what is going to bring us happiness.” Or “These are not what are going to bring us happiness.” Which is correct?

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"These will not bring us happiness" or "these are not what will bring us happiness" would be my recommendations, since repeating 'are' when it can be avoided is rather clumsy sounding.

"Are going" is just a present-tense way of suggesting the future-tense, so 'are going' can generally be replaced with 'will.'

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Fowler's examples:
Correct:
What are required are faith and confidence, and willingness to work.
Incorrect:
What is required are faith and confidence, and willingness to work.

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Now that I looked it up in the "Pocket" version of Fowler, which has a more conscise explanation, it appears that the latter is correct. It says that "what" can be plural.

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According to Fowler's English Usage, the verb that immediately follows "what" should always be singular. I may have misinterpreted it though (it was a 3-page explanation).

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