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Subject-Verb Agreement. Professor Jean Garrett Mt. San Antonio College Walnut, California. Subject-Verb Agreement. The basic principle of subject-verb agreement is: if the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb should be singular. The boy walks to school every day.

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subject verb agreement
Subject-Verb Agreement

Professor Jean Garrett

Mt. San Antonio College

Walnut, California

subject verb agreement1
Subject-Verb Agreement

The basic principle of subject-verb agreement is:

  • if the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb should be singular.
    • The boywalks to school every day.
  • if the subject is plural, the verb should be plural.
    • The boyswalk to school every day.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Do not let words that come between the subject and verb confuse agreement.

Prepositional phrases

    • Numerous stylesof clothingwere purchased for the new store.
    • The printingon those posters for the events is too small.
    • The teacher, as well as her students, was enjoying the fieldtrip.

Relative clauses

    • Jessica, who is the class’s best writer, is entering the contest.

Negative phrase follows a positive subject

    • Ignacio, not the other students, is the one with the correct answer.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement1
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Do not let reverse order sentences (verb before subject, not the normal order) confuse subject-verb agreement. Put the sentence in its normal order to find the subject and verb.

Questions

    • AreEduardoandAnnacoming with us? [question form]
    • EduardoandAnnaare coming with us.[normal order]

Sentences beginning with “Here” or “There”

    • There are over fifty new members in the club. [sentence filler]
    • Over fifty new membersare in the club. [normal order]

Sentences beginning with prepositional phrases

    • Over the fence and into the sky flew the frightened bird. [reverse order]
    • The frightened birdflew over the fence and into the sky. [normal order]
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement2
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • A singular verb agrees with a singular indefinite pronoun that is the subject of a sentence.

Most indefinite pronouns are singular.

    • Eachof the membersis doing the job which was assigned.
    • Neither of the children is willing to admit his or her guilt.
    • One of the men was late for inspection.

The indefinite pronouns all, any, none, and some do not clearly express either a singular or plural number. Agreement, therefore, depends on the meaning of the sentence.

    • Allof the piewastasty.
    • Allof the pieswereready to be eaten.
    • Noneof the cakewasmoist.
    • Noneof the cakesaredecorated.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement3
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Two or more subjects joined by andusually take a plural verb.
    • The mother and her daughterswere glad to be on vacation.
    • The dogs and catsneed to be fed.

If the parts of a compound subject mean one and the same person or thing, the verb is singular; if the parts mean more than one, the verb is plural.

    • The secretary and treasureris not present. [one]
    • The secretary and the treasurerare not present. [more than one].

When “each” or “every” modifies singular subjects joined by “and,” the verb is singular.

    • Eachboy and each girlchooses a topic for the report.
    • Everystudent and teacherhas wondered about the dean’s motives.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement4
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Alternative subjects - that is, subjects joined by or, nor, either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also - should be handled in the following manner:

If the subjects are both singular, the verb is singular.

    • TomasorMaryis picking you up at the airport.

If the subjects are plural, the verb is plural.

    • Neither the studentsnor the teacherswere impressed by his comments.

However, if one of the subjects is singular and the other subject is plural, the verb agrees with the nearer subject.

    • Either her sons or their motherfeeds the dog each day.
    • Either their motheror her sonsfeed the dog each day.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement5
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Collective nouns - team, family, group, crew, gang, class, faculty, and the like - take a singular verb if the noun is considered a unit, but they take a plural verb if the group is considered as a number of individuals.
    • The teamis playing well tonight.
    • The teamare getting dressed.

[In this sentence, the individuals are acting not as a unit but separately.]

If you don't like the way the sentence sounds, rewrite it.

    • The members of the team are getting dressed.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement6
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Titles of books, essays, short stories, and plays; a word spoken of as a word; and the names of businesses take a singular verb.
    • The Canterbury Taleswas written by Geoffrey Chaucer.
    • Jamesis my best friend.
    • Stapleshas a sale this week.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement7
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Sums of money, distances, and measurements are followed by a singular verb when a unit is meant. They are followed by a plural verb when the individual elements are considered separately.
    • Three dollarswas the price. [unit]
    • Three dollarswere lying there. [individual]
    • Five yearsis a long time. [unit]
    • The first five yearswere difficult ones. [individual].
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement8
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Be careful of agreement with nouns ending in -s. Several nouns ending in -s take a singular verb - for example, aeronautics, civics, economics, ethics, measles, mumps.
    • Mumpsis an unpleasant disease.
    • Economicsis my major field of study.
    • Mathematicshas always been my least favorite class.
ten guidelines for subject verb agreement9
Ten Guidelines for Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Some nouns have only a plural form and so take only a plural verb - for example, clothes, fireworks, scissors, trousers.
    • His trousersare badly wrinkled.
    • Marv's clotheswere stylish and expensive.