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Grammar: Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement Rules

Key: subject = yellow, bold; verb = green, underline

 

Subjects and verbs must agree in number.

  1. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular too.

Example: She writes every day.

  1. If the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.

Example: They write every day.

 

Sometimes, however, it seems a bit more complicated than this.

  1. When the subject of the sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.

Example: The student and the committee members write every day.
Example: The percentage of students who called in sick and the number of students who were marked as truant are proportional to the students' degree of seniority.

  1. When there is one subject and more than one verb, the verbs throughout the sentence must agree with the subject.

Example: Interviews are one way to collect data and allow researchers to gain an in-depth understanding of participants.
Example: Writing is a skill that takes a good deal of practice and is a requirement of most online classes.

  1. When a phrase comes between the subject and the verb, remember that the verb still agrees with the subject, not the noun or pronoun in the phrase following the subject of the sentence.

Example: The people who pursue a PhD degree are few.
Example: The student, as well as the committee members, is excited.
Example: The student with all the Master’s degrees is very motivated.
Example: Strategies that the teacher uses to encourage classroom participation include using small groups and clarifying expectations.
Example: The focus of the interviews was nine purposively selected participants.

  1. When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.

Example: The chairperson or the CEO approves the proposal before proceeding.

  1. When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is closest to the verb. This is also called the rule of proximity.

Example: The student or the committee members write every day.
Example: The committee members or the student writes every day.

  1. The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb.

Example: Each of these ideas is good.
Example: Everybody sometimes questions subject-verb agreement rules.
Example: Nobody writes without making errors.
Example: Either answer is correct.

  1. Noncount nouns take a singular verb.

Example: A lot of money is donated to the charity every year.
Example: News is on the radio every day.
Example: Hockey is a popular sport in Minnesota.
Example: Diabetes affects many people around the world.
Example: The information obtained from the business owners was relevant to include in the study.

  1. Nouns such as scissors, shorts, jeans, and tweezers require plural verbs. There are two parts to each of these.

Example: The scissors are in the drawer.
Example: His jeans are too tight.
Example: Her shorts are very comfortable.

  1. In sentences beginning with there is or there are, the subject follows the verb. Since there is not the subject, the verb agrees with what follows.

Example: There is a book.
Example: There are many books.

  1. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person but are considered singular and take a singular verb. Some examples are group, team, committee, family, and class.

Example: The group meets every week.
Example: The committee agrees on the quality of the writing.

However, the plural verb is used if the focus is on the individuals in the group. This is much less common.

Example: The committee participate in various volunteer activities in their private lives.

Common Error: Subject–Verb Agreement Video

Knowledge Check: Subject–Verb Agreement