A company sergeant major asks:
I am responsible for checking all of my soldiers’ awards and report cards. The question came up about the use of “were” and “was”. Need some clarification:
His dedication to duty and determination was instrumental to the unit’s success.
His dedication to duty and determination were instrumental to the unit’s success.
Which is correct? Or are they both okay to use?
“Were” is correct, but I can see where the confusion arises. We might hastily read “dedication to” as applying to both “duty” and “determination,” which would make “dedication” the singular subject of the sentence...thereby requiring “was” as the verb.
But we are not “dedicated to determination.” This soldier has has two traits: dedication to duty is one, and determination is the other.
Turn the sentence around, and the verb is clearly “were”: His determination and dedication to duty were...