Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement


     A verb must agree with its subject in number. That is, when the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb must also be singular: “The child is lost.” When the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural: “Your friends are here.”

     In English, the only verb that changes based on the person is be. When you use the verb be, alone or as part of a continuous tense, the subject-verb agreement rules say that you match both the number and the person. 


                               SINGULAR                                 PLURAL 

First Person:            I am                                            we are 

Second Person:    you are                                           you are 

Third Person:    he, she, it is                                     they are


Subject-verb agreement rules and examples


   - We consider two or more subjects that are joined by “and” to be plural, so they require a plural verb (without “s.”)

  • Jan, John, and Bob walk to the store.

   - Some common phrases form a single unit that can be treated as singular. 

  • This bed and breakfast is delightful!

   -  Each and every are treated as singular when they’re used as the subject; even when they’re followed by multiple nouns.

  • Each boy and girl walks to the store.

  • Every doctor, nurse, and technician gets free training here. 

   - When the subject consists of multiple singular nouns that are joined by “or”, the subject is treated as singular.

  • Rick or Daryl works fine for the recipe. 

   - When the subject consists of multiple plural nouns that are joined by or, the subject is treated as plural. 

  • Dogs or cats make good friends. 

   - When a combination of singular and plural nouns is joined by or, the verb follows the number of the final one listed. 

  • The student or the teachers have to inform the principal. 

  • The teachers or the student has to inform the principal.  

   - When there is more than one active verb, as with compound predicates, all the verbs agree with the subject. 

  • After work, I go shopping, pick up the kids, prepare lunch, and then relax for the night. 

   - Uncountable nouns (mass nouns) act as singular subjects.

  • Money makes the world go around. 


   - Collective nouns can be singular (when they act together) or plural (when they act separately.)

  • [Together, singular] The team goes to practice at 5:00.

  • [Separately, plural] The team go to their own homes after the game.


   - Verbs used in alternative forms, such as infinitives, gerunds, or participles, do not need to follow subject-verb agreement. However, the main verbs of the sentence still need to follow subject-verb agreement.

  • The coach makes jogging mandatory. 

  • The coaches make jogging mandatory. 


   - The following words always act as singular subjects, even when they describe more than one thing: anybody, anyone, either, everybody, everyone, neither, no one, nobody, somebody, and someone.

  • Everybody loves Sipping a warm drink on a cold day! 

  • Either yellow or blue works for the wallpaper color. 


   - When additional phrases take place between the subject and the verb, the verb must agree with the subject. These kinds of sentences can be tricky, so be careful. 

  • A group consisting of Professor Lidenbrock, the Icelandic guide Hans Bjelke, and the professor’s nephew Axel departs for the volcano. 

   - Some subjects start with the phrase “one of . . .” The word one is singular, even when it’s followed by plural nouns. 

  • One of the world’s leading scientists still has trouble speaking in public. 


   - In the passive voice, the verb still follows the word that acts as the subject. 

  • They pay the bill online. 

  • The bill is paid by them online. 


  - For sentences beginning with “there is . . .” and “there are . . . ,” the verb matches the number of the noun that follows it. The same applies for sentences beginning with “here . . .”

  • There is a truck in the street. 

  • There are trucks in the street. 


   - As for words that indicate a portion, including percentages, use the number of the noun they describe. This noun is typically the object of the phrase “of . . .”

  • All of the magazine is ruined!

  • All of the magazines are ruined!

  • Fifty percent of the place is made of wood. 

  • Fifty percent of the places are made of wood.


   -  Distances, periods of time, or amounts of money are taken as a whole. Thus, use the singular form of the verb. 

  • Twenty dollars is too much for a CD! 

   - If the word pair is followed by a plural noun, treat the subject as singular because pair is singular.  

  • The pair of scissors does not work. 

   - Some nouns that exist only in the plural form; sometimes they act as singular. 

  • The news has been cheering lately. 

  • Politics is getting too aggressive.


                                                            Pronoun Agreement

     Not only should the verb agree with the subject, but a pronoun also should agree with the word it refers to. If a word referred to is singular, the pronoun must be singular; if the word referred to is plural, the pronoun must be plural.

  • My brother picked up the puppies. (brother, he: singular) 

  • He put them in the box. (puppies, them: plural)


   - If a pronoun refers back to one of the indefinite pronouns (another, anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, enough, everyone, everybody, everyone, everything, less, little, much, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, one, other, somebody, someone, and something) that pronoun also has to be singular.


  • Each of the dancers practices her/his routine. (not their routine) 

  • Everybody learns his/her lines before the rehearsal. (not their lines)


   - When it's too complicated to decide whether the pronoun is "his or her," try to make the whole sentence plural, instead. 

  • All of the dancers practice their routines. 

  • The actors learn their lines before the dress rehearsal.

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