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Subject Verb Agreement

Find the right subject and verb for subject-verb agreement.

Basic Rule. A singular subject (she, Bill, car) takes a singular verb (is, goes, shines), whereas a
plural subject takes a plural verb.
Example: The list of items is/are on the desk.
If ou know that list is the subject, then ou will choose is for the verb.
Rule 1. A subject will come before a phrase beginning with of. !his is a ke rule for
understanding subjects. !he word of is the culprit in man, perhaps most, subject-verb mistakes.
"ast writers, speakers, readers, and listeners might miss the all-too-common mistake in the
following sentence#
Incorrect: A bouquet of yellow roses lend color and fragrance to the room.
Correct: A bouquet of yellow roses lends . . . (bouquet lends, not roses lend)
Rule 2. !wo singular subjects connected b or, either/or, or neither/nor re$uire a singular verb.
My aunt or my uncle is arriving by train today.
Neither uan nor !armen is available.
"ither #iana or !asey is hel$ing today with stage decorations.
Rule 3. !he verb in an or, either/or, or neither/nor sentence agrees with the noun or pronoun
closest to it.
Neither the $lates nor the serving bowl goes on that shelf.
Neither the serving bowl nor the $lates go on that shelf.
!his rule can lead to bumps in the road. For e%ample, if % is one of two (or more) subjects, it could
lead to this odd sentence#
Awkward: Neither she, my friends, nor % am going to the festival.
If possible, it&s best to reword such grammaticall correct but awkward sentences.
Neither she, %, nor my friends are going to the festival.
&he, my friends, and % are not going to the festival.
Rule 4. As a general rule, use a plural verb with two or more subjects when the are connected
b and.
Example: A car and a bike are my means of trans$ortation.
'ut note these e%ceptions#
Breaking and entering is against the law.
The bed and breakfast was charming.
In those sentences, breaking and entering and bed and breakfast are compound nouns.
Rule 5. (ometimes the subject is separated from the verb b such words as along with, as well
as, besides, not, etc. !hese words and phrases are not part of the subject. Ignore them and use a
singular verb when the subject is singular.
The $olitician, along with the newsmen, is e'$ected shortly.
"'citement, as well as nervousness, is the cause of her shaking.
Rule . *ith words that indicate portions+$ercent, fraction, ma(ority, some, all, etc.+,ule )
given earlier is reversed, and we are guided b the noun after of. If the noun after of is singular,
use a singular verb. If it is plural, use a plural verb.
)ifty $ercent of the pie has disa$$eared.
)ifty $ercent of the pies have disa$$eared.
A third of the cit! is unem$loyed.
A third of the people are unem$loyed.
All of the pie is gone.
All of the pies are gone.
&ome of the pie is missing.
&ome of the pies are missing.
In recent ears, the (A! testing service has considered none to be strictl singular. "owever,
according to Merriam*+ebster,s -ictionary of "nglish .sage# -.learl none has been both
singular and plural since /ld 0nglish and still is. !he notion that it is singular onl is a mth of
unknown origin that appears to have arisen in the )1th centur. If in conte%t it seems like a
singular to ou, use a singular verb2 if it seems like a plural, use a plural verb. 'oth are
acceptable beond serious criticism.- *hen none is clearl intended to mean -not one,- it is
followed b a singular verb.
Rule ". In sentences beginning with here or there, the true subject follows the verb.
There are four hurdles to (um$.
There is a high hurdle to (um$.
/ere are the keys.
!he word there,s, a contraction of there is, leads to bad habits in informal sentences like There,s
a lot of $eo$le here today, because it&s easier to sa -there&s- than -there are.- !ake care never to
use there,s with a plural subject.
Rule #. 3se a singular verb with distances, periods of time, sums of mone, etc., when
considered as a unit.
Three miles is too far to walk.
)ive years is the ma'imum sentence for that offense.
Ten dollars is a high $rice to $ay.
Ten dollars 0i.e., dollar bills1 were scattered on the floor.
Rule $. (ome collective nouns, such as family, cou$le, staff, audience, etc., ma take either a
singular or a plural verb, depending on their use in the sentence.
The staff is in a meeting.
&taff is acting as a unit.
The cou$le disagree about disci$lining their child.
The cou$le refers to two people who are acting as individuals.
Anone who uses a plural verb with a collective noun must take care to be accurate+and also
consistent. It must not be done carelessl. !he following is the sort of flawed sentence one sees
and hears a lot these das#
The staff is deciding how they want to vote.
.areful speakers and writers would avoid assigning the singular is and the plural they to staff in
the same sentence.
Consistent: The staff are deciding how t%e! want to vote.
,ewriting such sentences is recommended whenever possible. !he preceding sentence would
read even better as#
The staff members are deciding how they want to vote.
Rule 1&. !he word were replaces was in sentences that e%press a wish or are contrar to fact#
Example: %f oe were here, you,d be sorry.
(houldn&t oe be followed b was, not were, given that oe is singular5 'ut 6oe isn&t actuall here,
so we sa were, not was. !he sentence demonstrates the subjunctive mood, which is used to
e%press things that are hpothetical, wishful, imaginar, or factuall contradictor. !he subjunctive
mood pairs singular subjects with what we usuall think of as plural verbs.
% wish it were )riday.
&he requested that he raise his hand.
In the first e%ample, a wishful statement, not a fact, is being e%pressed2 therefore, were, which we
usuall think of as a plural verb, is used with the singular subject %.
7ormall, he raise would sound terrible to us. "owever, in the second e%ample, where a re$uest
is being e%pressed, the subjunctive mood is correct.
Note: !he subjunctive mood is losing ground in spoken 0nglish but should still be used in formal
speech and writing.
Further Exp!n!tion
8et us first understand the concept of subject and verb in a sentence.
A subject is that part of the sentence which names the person or a thing we are speaking about.
!he verb is the word which describes the action of the noun or the pronoun, depending on the
subject of the sentence. For instance#
- .ows eat grass2
- 8ions live in the forest2
- (he threw a catch, etc.
7ow, in these sentences, the subjects are 9.ows,: 98ions,: and 9(he: and the verb related to these
subjects are 9eat,: 9live,: and 9threw.:
No"# ! verb !"!$s !grees "ith its subject# in person !nd in number% As !re!d$
mentioned# in Engish there !re t"o numbers &Singu!r !nd 'ur!( !nd three persons
&First# Second !nd Third persons(% 7ow, we will take various conditions into consideration,
based on whether the subject is singular or plural.
)ondition *: *hen the noun is uncountable, we use singular verb.
For instance#
- ;our lunch is read2
- *ould ou like some tea5
- !he fire is wildl spreading in the forest2 etc.

)ondition +: *hen the noun is countable, we use the singular form of verb.
For instance#
- !he group is plaing2
- !he herd was gra<ing2
- !he famil is ver close- knit2 etc.

)ondition ,: *hen we use proper nouns, singular form of verbs is used.
For instance#
- India is a democratic countr2
- >ark is a great scholar2
- ,a was a renowned scientist, etc.

)ondition -: *hen we use two or more singular nouns, the plural form of verb is used.
For instance#
- ,am and ?auri are best friends2
- 'irender and (avitri are meant for each other2
- ,avi, 6aved and 'allu are celebrating2
- @ush and ,ajeev are going on a road trip, etc.

)ondition .: *hen two or more improper nouns are referred to a singular noun, then the verb
that follows is singular.
For instance#
- ,aj, m brother and also m ver good friend, never leaves m side2
- > mother, m mentor and guide, paves the best wa of living for me2
- Ashok, m father and m coach, made me the person I am toda, etc.

)ondition /: *hen the noun comes with 9along with:, 9with:, 9as well as:, then the verb that
follows is in singular.
For instance#
- !he bo, along with his sister, goes to school everda2
- ,am as well as ,avi saw the movie last night, etc.

)ondition 0: *hen singular form of noun accompanies 9or: or 9nor:, the verb that follows is
For instance#
- 0ither !om or >ark is going to the graduation part2
- 7either >ar nor her father had an idea about what was going on, etc.

)ondition 1: *hen plural form of nouns is used, it accompanies the plural form of verb.
For instance#
- 7either his parents nor his relatives sta there anmore2
- 7either the media people nor the editors can reach here, etc.

)ondition 2: *ith 9and:, 9each: and ever:, we use the singular form of verb.
For instance#
- 0ach apple and each lemon costs twelve rupees2
- 0ach new car has an inbuilt new stereo sstem2 etc.