What did you dislike about the film? Help again, please

Hi @Arinker, @NearlyNapping @Anglophile

  • What did you dislike about the film? Can I simply asnwer this question as follows:
  • What I disliked was/were the over-acting of some actors and actresses and the special effects. (However this doesn’t sound correct to me) So, what about this?
  • What I disliked about it was/ were the over-acting of some actors and actresses and the special effects.

What do you think about the following sentence?

  • The police captain disliked it when a murder was committed in his town, but what he disliked even more was/ were two murders.

What and how would you say that, because I don’t really feel very comfortable about these sentences.
I’ve tried to look it up in fuddy duddy grammar books, but none of them give me a satisfactory answer.

Suppose I was about to write a novel in English, I think it would take me years.

Thanks in advance.

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I’m not real confident when it comes to some of the singular vs plural decisions. Personally I would use singular for the movie sentence, and plural for the murder sentence. I can’t give a good reason why other than it just feels right and natural to me.

What I dislike was…
What I dislike about it was…

“About it” doesn’t add anything. It just makes it more wordy.

‘Actor’ can refer to a male actor, but actor is commonly used as gender neutral. It is commonly used by both male and female actors. So “and actresses” makes it more wordy without adding anything. For that matter, ‘actors’ is not needed either.

What I disliked was the over-acting and special effects

As for writing a novel, the copy editor takes care of a lot of that. I assume most publishers have a style guide and edit for style as much as for grammar. Even with editing and several editions it’s surprising how many mistakes get through. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious and it still gets through.


Thanks NN, you’ve been extremely helpful to me for the past couple of months. I really appreciate it. For foreigners English is certainly not ‘an easy language’. Over here, they say: ‘Oh, I can speak English and understand English very well. Then, I say to myself, if that were the case, why am I asking people questions on the forum - sometimes I get a little angry - you see I paid a lot to get enrolled in a lot of English university colleges’. Yet, Univerisity professors teach you a lot about Chomsky and all, but I want to know what a real native speaker would say about a lot of things. I’m not satisfied with what is ‘grammatically correct’. Yet, I’m convinced that foreign speakers are confronted with some sort of mixture of BrE and AmE and what do you get then, something like Mid-Atlantic English. Probably, that’s why you found the accent of Joan Collins made-up, because she travels a lot between London and Los Angeles.
A couple of years ago, I came into contact with an American. We often talked on the phone and he always used to to say: ‘You sound very British’.
What disturbs me about university professsors is that they want you to speak BrE instead of AmE, while the Mid-Atlantic accent is a fact. I never obliged my students to speak BrE or AmE. I let them speak and the least I achieved is that there were not afraid to speak English. I’m very happy for that.

  • So ‘What the police captain disliked was two murders in his town?’ You would consider this as corrects. Yes, because ‘were’ would seem wrong to me, but you’ve explained that.’

I think Arinker would give me the same explanation, more or less.

As for the novel, I probably have to write in AmE, if I ever do write a novel, but I certainly have the ambition.

Kind regards,


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I don’t recall seeing anything you’ve written that gives you away as a non-native speaker. If there has been anything it’s been rare and I don’t remember it.

Of course there is a difference in accent between BrE and AmE, but the language itself is 99+% the same. The differences might stand out but most are trivial.

I’ve always heard that British English is taught to English learners. But most of what I see online is AmE or neutral. For example I almost always see AmE spelling.

‘Was’ seems correct to me. This sentence is a different structure than the first one. Again, I’m not sure I can explain why I think this, other than it just feels right.

I could guess at the reason and say that the original sentence seems more like he’s seeing the two murders as separate events. Whereas this sentence seems more like one thing.


Thank you NN.


I, too, approached this question with trepidation.

Simple response:
“The over-acting and the special effects.”
If you insist on a sentence:
“I disliked the over-acting and the special effects“
Using the form of your response:
“What I disliked was the over-acting and the special effects.”

I think that to choose a verb, was/were, you have to know what you intend with the noun - what. Are you thinking of “ the over-acting and the special effects” as two separate things or as a single group?

Here I think the intent is not to address two separate murders, but to point out that two occurred at the same time.

“… but what he dIsliked even more was when two murders were committed.”
“… but what he disliked even more was [the occurrence of] two murders.”


Hi Arinker,

I’m so sorry for my late reply. You do know by now, that I appreciate them very much. Your answer clarified some things that NN posted in his previous mail. I’m very happy! As far as your answer’s concerned I’ll talk to you tomorrow, but right now I don’t feel all that well. I’ll speak to you to tomorrow.



Let me add my two cents.

What did you dislike about the film?
I think it is correct since you do not dislike the film itself but certain aspects of it.

What I disliked was/were the over-acting of some actors and actresses and the special effects.
To me, both is and are are acceptable, though is is preferable. (what means that which or those which). It depends on whether you think of over-acting and special effects separately (using are) or collectively (using is).

  • The police captain disliked it when a murder was committed in his town, but what he disliked even more was the two murders.
  • (The two murders were what the police captain disliked more).

Hi Arinker, yes that’s the intent. Thank you again.

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Thank you very much, Anglophile.