Subject–Verb Agreement Rules
Key: subject = yellow, bold; verb = green, underline
Subjects and verbs must agree in number. In addition to the explanations on this page, also see the post on Subject—Verb Agreement.
- If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular too.
Example: She writes every day.
Exception: When using the singular "they," use plural verb forms.
Example: The participant expressed satisfaction with their job. They are currently in a managerial role at the organization.
- 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.
- When the subject of the sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.
Example: The doctoral student and the committee members write every day.
Example: The percentage of employees who called in sick and the number of employees who left their jobs within 2 years are reflective of the level of job satisfaction.
- 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: An assumption is something that is generally accepted as true and is an important consideration when conducting a doctoral study.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The words and phrases "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 the participants was willing to be recorded.
Example: Neither alternative hypothesis was accepted.
Example: I will offer a $5 gift card to everybody who participates in the study.
Example: No one was available to meet with me at the preferred times.
- Noncount nouns take a singular verb.
Example: Education is the key to success.
Example: Diabetes affects many people around the world.
Example: The information obtained from the business owners was relevant to include in the study.
Example: The research I found on the topic was limited.
- Some countable nouns in English such as earnings, goods, odds, surroundings, proceeds, contents, and valuables only have a plural form and take a plural verb.
Example: The earnings for this quarter exceed expectations.
Example: The proceeds from the sale go to support the homeless population in the city.
Example: Locally produced goods have the advantage of shorter supply chains.
- 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 the verb.
Example: There is little administrative support.
Example: There are many factors affecting teacher retention.
- 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.