subject verb agreement n.
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CSSC. Communications Student Support Center. Subject-Verb Agreement. Tell me:. …what Subject-Verb Agreement is. … what the rules are. …how to deal with pronouns. …the “What-ifs”. For more help…. What Is Subject-Verb Agreement?.

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subject verb agreement


Communications Student Support Center

Subject-Verb Agreement


…what Subject-Verb Agreement is

…what the rules are

…how to deal with pronouns

…the “What-ifs”

For more help…

what is subject verb agreement
What Is Subject-Verb Agreement?
  • When subjects and verbs agree, they match in number and person.
  • In other words, singular subjects require singular verbs and plural subjects require plural verbs.
  • Third-person subjects require the third-person form of the verb.

Example: The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.

— Albert Camus, French writer, philosopher, and founder of existentialism

The purpose is a singular subject, therefore, it requires a singular verb-- is.

rules of subject verb agreement
Rules of Subject-Verb Agreement
  • In English, regular verbs take the same form for singular and plural except for the third-person singular form of the verb.
  • Typically, a singular present tense subject requires an (s) or (es) at the end of the verb.
    • Example: Maria loves to sing.
  • The exception to this is: I/you
  • Example: Ilovedeadlines. Ilikethe whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
  • — Douglas Adams. British author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
the what ifs of subject verb agreement
The “What ifs” of Subject-Verb Agreement
  • What if the subject and the verb do not appear together in the sentence?
    • A subject agrees with its verb no matter how far apart the two are. Do not be distracted by nouns or pronouns placed between the subject and the verb.
    • Example: The basic tool for manipulation of reality isthe manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.

—Philip K. Dick, American science fiction writer, author of A Scanner Darkly

  • What if the sentence contains more than one subject?
    • When a sentence contains more than one subject, that subject is known as a compound subject. A compound subject that is linked by the conjunction “and” functions the same way as a plural verb.


what ifs examples
“What ifs” Examples
    • Both the college newspaper and the literary magazine fail to attract experienced staff.
    • Greta and Andrew both enjoy spelunking during autumn months.
  • A compound subject linked by the conjunction “or” or “nor” requires a single verb.
    • Either the dean or his assistant addresses the freshman class.
    • Neither geology nor astronomy is required for my major.


what ifs continued
“What ifs” Continued
  • What about words like “species” which sometimes refer to one thing or a group?
    • If a collective noun acts as a single unit, it takes a singular verb.
    • We are aspeciesthat needsand wantsto understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.

—Anne Lamott, novelist and nonfiction writer, author of Bird by Bird.

  • What about when the normal order of words, subject then verb, is switched around?
    • When the normal word order is inverted and the subject follows the verb, the subject and verb must agree in number, still.
    • There is no such a thingas writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.

—Terry Pratchett, English fantasy author

what about those pronouns
What About Those Pronouns?
  • What are indefinite pronouns and how do they affect subject-verb agreement?
    • Indefinite pronouns refer to nonspecific persons or things
    • Singular indefinite pronouns take singular verbs.
      • Eachof the membershasone vote.
      • The subject “each” is singular, so “has” is the singular verb.
    • Plural indefinite pronouns take plural verbs.
      • Afewof the justicesvoicetheir opposition.
      • The subject “few” is plural, so “voice” is the plural verb.
      • Indefinite pronouns can be singular or plural depending on what they refer to.
        • All of the peopleclappedtheir hands.
        • The subject “all” refers to people which is plural. “Clapped” is the plural verb.
        • Allof the newspaperwas soaked.
        • The subject “all” refers to “newspaper” which is singular. “Was” is singular verb.