Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement

  • The subject of a sentence must always agree with its verb in number. If the subject is singular, then the verb must be singular. Similarly, a plural subject takes a plural verb.
  • Examples:
    • The boy goes to bed early.
      • Boy, which is the subject of this sentence, is singular, so we must use a singular verb.
    • The boys go to bed early.
      • Here we have a plural subject, boys, and so the plural verb must be used.

Collective Nouns

  • When a subject is a collective noun we must find out whether it is regarded as a unit or as several things.
  • Examples:
    • The class was warned not to throw stones.
      • Here, the class is considered as a unit, so a singular verb must be used.
    • All the classes were warned not to throw stones.
      • Because classes is plural, a plural verb must be used.
    • The council is to meet next Thursday.
      • Because council refers to one body a singular verb is used.
    • The council are unable to agree.
      • Because the various members who make up the council are unable to agree we use the plural verb.

Sums and Quantities

  • Words representing sums of money or quantities such as length, weights, etc. are considered as units, and take singular verbs.
  • Examples:
    • Twenty cents was all I had.
    • Six months is a long time to wait.
  • Some nouns which appear to be plural because they end with –s are really singular.
  • Examples:
    • Measles is an infectious disease.
    • The news was better last night.

Subject with Two Nouns

  • When the subject consists of two (or more) nouns joined by and, a plural verb is used.
  • Example:
    • Health and happiness are priceless.
  • But if the two nouns are considered as one thing then the singular verb is used.
  • Example:
    • Bread and butter is often eaten at breakfast.

Or and Nor

  • If the subject consists of two singular nouns joined by or or nor the singular verb is required.
  • Examples:
    • Either the boy or his sister is mistaken.
    • Neither Amy nor Jo was at the party last night.
  • If, however, the nouns joined by or or nor are plural, they take a plural verb.
  • Examples:
    • Either the boys or their sisters are mistaken.
    • Neither the Browns nor the Smiths were at the party.

Pronouns and Verbs

  • Most mistakes in Subject and Verb Agreement are made when the subject is a pronoun.
  • Examples:
He – She – ItIWe – You – They
is
was
does
has
am
was
do
have
are
were
do
have
  • These rules apply when not (n’t) is combined with these verbs.
is not
isn’t
are not
aren’t
was not
wasn’t
were not
weren’t
does not
doesn’t
do not
don’t
has not
hasn’t
have not
haven’t