Eating and drinking IS/ARE allowed?

This is a question from a school revision paper which I will go through with my students this Saturday.

Eating and drinking is/are not allowed in the sports hall.

There is a heated debate on this question. One camp says the answer should be “is” because you categorise eating and drinking as one activity. The other say it should be “are” because they are two different actions.

What’s your view?

I consulted MOE’s Permanent Secretary for Education Selena Tan to make sure I won’t mislead my kids this weekend.

This is her reply:

“Both answers are possible, depending on one’s concept of ‘eating and drinking’. Based on common usage, e.g., announcements in the public transport system, it is possible to think of ‘eating and drinking’ as a single idea. In another context, e.g., when referring to forms of entertainment, “eating and drinking” may be considered as two different activities.

According to Michael Swan (2009),’Some expressions joined by and have singular determiners, verbs and pronouns. This happens when the two nouns are used together so often that we think of them as a single idea.

This gin and tonic isn’t very strong, is it?
Your toast and marmalade is on the table.’ (pg 521)

Reference: Michael Swan (2009), Practical English Usage (3rd Edition)”

Basically both answers are acceptable.

While this is a bad question because it included two possible answers, it is good for us to understand why in order to use them correctly in future.