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Grammar Troublespots. Agreement. subject-verb agreement Writing Center, University of Houston. About this Section. Each complete sentence should express a complete thought and have a Subject and a Verb. In this section you will learn more about:

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grammar troublespots

Grammar Troublespots


subject-verb agreement

Writing Center, University of Houston

about this section
About this Section

Each complete sentence should

  • express a complete thought and
  • have a Subject and a Verb.

In this section you will learn more about:

  • relationshipsbetween Subjects and Verbs,
  • problems regardingSubject-Verb Agreement,
  • ways to correct such problems.
  • A Subjectis a noun or pronoun partnered with a predicate verb.
  • Verbshave traditionally been defined as words that show action or state of being.

NOTE: Determining singular or plural endings can be confusing because an –sending on a noun indicates plural, whereas an –son a verb indicates singular.

verbs that show agreement
Verbs that show agreement

Agreement in number occurs

  • with verbs used without auxiliaries in the Present Simple Tense and
  • with the following auxiliaries: am/is/are; was/were; do/does; has/have.


(singular) Acid rain causes many troubles.

(plural) Acid rains cause many troubles.

verbs that do not show agreement
Verbs that do not show agreement

Auxiliaries like will, would, can, could, shall, should, may, might,and must

  • do not change and
  • are always, whatever the subject, followed by the simple form of the verb.


(singular) The river mightfreeze.

(plural) The streamswill probablyfreezetoo.

subjects with singular verbs
Subjects with singular verbs

Words like each, every, everyone, everybody, someone, somebody, something, anyone, anything, no one, nobody, nothing

  • require a single verb and, therefore, are often troublesomefor second-language learners.


(singular)Everybodyis happy.

(singular)Each student has to be in class on time.

agreement with there in subject position
Agreement with there in subject position

When a sentence starts with There plus a form of be, the verb agrees with the head word of the phrase that follows the verb.

  • Therefore, first determine if the head word is singular or plural.


(singular)There isone bottle on the table.

(plural)There area lot of peoplein the room.

compound subjects
Compound subjects
  • When a sentence has a compound subject (more than one subject), the verb must be plural in form.
  • When the subject is formed with either…or or neither…nor, the verb agrees with the phrase closest to it.


(pl.) My aunt and my sisters visitme every year.

(pl.)Either my aunt ormy sisters visitme every year.

(sg.)Neither my sisters normy aunt visits me every year.

agreement in relative clauses
Agreement in relative clauses

When you write a relative clause beginning with who, which, or that,look for its referent – the word that who, which, or that refers to.

  • The referent determines whether the verb should be singular or plural.


(sg.)The journalist who wants to interview you

works for a business magazine.

(pl.)The journalistswho want to interview you

work for a business magazine.

agreement with one of
Agreement with one of

Attention! One of is followed by a plural noun and a singular verb, agreeing with the head of word one.


(sg.)One of her friends likes to swim.

agreement with some most any all none
Agreement with some, most, any, all, none

Quantity words like some, most, any, all,andnone are used in the following pattern:

  • a plural verb form with plural countable nouns,
  • a singular verb form with noncountable nouns.


(pl.) Most of the students are fond of sports.

(sg.) Most of furniture is very old.

materials used
Materials used:


  • Raimes, Ann. Grammar Troublespots: An Editing Guide for Students, Cambridge University Press, 1998


  • PowerPoint ClipArt

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