Another "is" or "are" query...

Before Colonel Gadaffi's capture and killing I heard and read more than once in the media that "his whereabouts are unknown" whereas I always thought that, if referring to a single person, it should be "his whereabouts is unknown". Any thoughts?
15:35 Wed 29th Feb 2012
 
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Unless he was a quantum Gadaffi he could only have one whereabouts at one time. So I'd say 'is'.

But if they were referring to many instances of time I can see that over a long period there may be many whereabouts and so 'are' would be appropriate. I guess it depends on the meaning that was trying to be conveyed.
Good question, holo !!
Whereabouts -are
Whereabout - is
Whereabouts is plural. So they are unknown.
Whereabouts "is" plural ???????
next!
According to this website, the word can be used with a singular or a plural verb:
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/whereabouts
Question Author
Thanks for the replies. The word "whereabouts" is really just a synonym for "location", isn't it, and it is not a plural word (there is no singular word "whereabout") hence the reason I think it should be followed by "is" in this case...
There's a 'whereabout' here

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Whereabout
Whereabout, as a singular noun, started to disappear around the mid 19th century. The OED, Chambers and Fowler's Modern English Usage seem quite happy for its plural - if that's what it is - to be followed by either a singular or plural verb. So should we be!
Surely whereabouts is not a single location, but a plural, as his location must vary a little over time.
I've never considered the 's' to represent plural with regards to this word. I've always taken it to cover both singular and plural situations and meaning the general vicinity of the stated individual.
It is not him (singular)that is unknown, it is his wherabouts (plural) therefore ARE
"Whereabouts...singular or plural noun...the position or rough position of a person or thing."
The above is copied from Chambers Dictionary online. (Just google "Chambers online" and then type whereabouts into the search slot in order to see for yourself.)
It is perfectly plain that the word may be treated either as a singular OR a plural, as already pointed out!
If further evidence is required, Collins Dictionary says re whereabouts as a noun, "functioning as singular or plural", the Bloomsbury Dictionary says, "takes a singular or plural verb" and Chambers Dictionary (print version) says, "singular or plural". End of story, surely!
A spare pair of trousers IS a good thing to take with you on holiday.
But:
Yours trousers ARE too tight.
'Whereabouts' IS plural [because sandyRoe was treating the word simply as a word] [but it may also be treated as singular]
'Trousers' IS a word that has been used for hundreds of years.
It just sounds better (I think) to follow 'whereabouts' with a plural verb, because it sounds plural.
Bert, the reason we say, "A spare pair of trousers IS a good thing to take" is because the subject of the verb is NOT 'trousers', it's 'pair', which is unquestionably a singular word. Why is it a singular word? Simply because there is a different plural form, namely pairS!
If you think it sounds better, you are of course perfectly free to say "whereabouts are", just as others are perfectly free to say "whereabouts is."
Question Author
Many good responses. I am coming round to the 'his whereabouts are' school of thinking. I will sleep easier at night.

On a similar theme has anyone noticed how sloppy people have become with regard to 'there is / there are' these days? One hears phrases such as 'there's lots of bargains to be had...' 'there's a lot of people attending...' etc. from people in the media who should know better?
Holo, "lot of people" is similar to "pair of trousers"...namely, lot - like pair - is singular. Thus there's nothing whatsoever wrong with "There's a lot of people attending." If you WANT a pluralised version, all you need to do is change it to "There are lots of people attending."
"There's lots of bargains to be had", on the other hand, IS wrong, as the singular verb is...or 's, as here...cannot go with a plural subject, lots.
whereabouts is plural

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