Subject – Verb Agreement

What does the Subject – Verb Agreement rule say? It simply states that a singular subject must take a singular verb and a plural subject must take a plural verbA singular subject is one in number. A plural subject is two or more in number.

There are a few rules that dictate the type of verb to be used with a given subject. In this lesson, we’ll take a look at the important ones.

Rule 1: When two nouns are joined by the preposition ofwe must consider the noun or pronoun before of when determining the verb. If the noun or pronoun before of is singular, then the subject should take a singular verb. If the noun or pronoun before of is plural, then it must take a plural verb.

               Ex: A group of students were engaged in a fight here yesterday.
                    All the departments of the company have to participate in the competition.

Rule 2: Collective nouns take singular or plural verbs depending on how they’re used. Most commonly, they take a singular verb as collective nouns are considered singular.

Ex: The Army is sending its finest for this mission.
    The Staff is going on an excursion with the students. (The Staff are is also possible)

Rule 3: Let’s say two singular subjects (nouns or pronouns) are joined by the words or, either/or, neither/nor. We must use a singular verb with such subjects.

Ex: John or Martha needs to take this proposal to the boss.
            Neither the President nor the Secretary was at the meeting.
Either he or she walks the parade tomorrow.

Rule 4: How about when one of the subjects is singular and the other is plural and these subjects are joined by  the words or, either/or, neither/nor? Simple. We use a singular or plural verb depending on the subject closest to it.

Ex: Neither he nor his friends were seen at the party.
     Neither his friends nor he was seen at the party.

Rule 5: Now, when two different grammatical persons are joined by the words or, either/or, neither/nor, we follow the same rule as above. We simply take into account the subject closest to the verb.

     Ex: John or I have to go to the supermarket for groceries.
      My brothers or John has to go to the supermarket for groceries.

Rule 6: Let’s move on to other conjunctions. We’ll discuss and. When two or more subjects are joined by the word and, we use a plural verb regardless of whether the subjects are singular or plural.

Ex: Sarah and Jeremy know each other from their childhood.
     Money and friends come and go.

Rule 7: Some words appear plural since they end in sics, etc. But these words are really singular as they refer to a single unit and not multiple units. Hence, we must use a singular verb with them.

Ex: Statistics is an interesting subject.
     Measles is a contagious infection that can be prevented by vaccine.

Rule 8: Some indefinite pronouns take singular verbs and others, plural verbs.

The following indefinite pronouns take singular verbs:

                          Anyone        Someone        No one       Either       Other        Little
                         Anybody      Somebody      Nobody     Neither    Another     Much
                        Anything     Something      Nothing      Each        One

Ex: Anybody can approach the Principal about this matter.
     Is there anyone who is willing to volunteer for this program?
     If someone has an extra pen, could you please pass it to Heather?
     Each gets a free trip to Malaysia.

          The following indefinite pronouns take plural verbs:

                        Both         Few        Several
                       Others      Many

Ex: Both Engineers were fired from the company.
     Several musicians are participating in this fundraiser.

         The following indefinite pronouns can take both singular and plural verbs depending on the nouns they’re used with.

                      Some    Any       Most   Such
                      All         None     More  

Ex: Some players are not seen today.
     There is some chicken in the fridge.

         All members of the committee are here.
      All the family has gone on a vacation. 

Rule 9: An object of a preposition cannot be considered a subject and hence doesn’t determine the verb in a sentence. An object of a preposition follows a preposition and it can be a noun or pronoun. Ex: with him, of the stock, in the apartment, etc.

What this means is that the object of a preposition should be ignored while determining whether to take a singular or plural verb.

Ex: Aries, along with her friends, has taken a trip to Asia recently.
     Everyone, besides her, likes the class.

Rule 10: When sentences begin with There and Here, the subject follows the verb. So, we need to take a look at the subject to be used in the sentence before determining whether to use a singular or plural verb.

Ex: There is a shop at the end of the street.
     There are some shops at the end of the street.

Here comes the teacher.
Here come the students.

Rule 11: When using fractions such as one-third, two-fourths, one-half, etc., let the subject after of dictate the verb to be used in the sentence.

Ex: Two-third of the population opposes the bill.
     Three-fourths of the companies say the President is not business-friendly.