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Subject-verb Concord

Concord, also termed agreement, can be
defined as the relationship between two
grammatical units such that one of them
displays a particular feature (e.g. plurality) that
accords with a displayed (or semantically
implicit) feature in the other. (Quirk et al.,
Concord refers to the agreement
relationship between two grammatical units.

Subject-verb concord

The most important type of the concord

The number agreement between the
subject and the verb
1. Guiding principles

Grammatical concord

Notional concord

Grammatical concord
The Verb must match its subject both in
person and number. Singular subjects take
singular verbs, and plural subjects take plural
Each boy has his own book.
Two girls were standing on the corner.
Much effort is wasted.
Notional concord: agreement in
The verb can sometimes agree with the
subject according to the notion of number
rather than to the actual presence of the
grammatical marker of that notion.
Fifteen miles seems like a long walk to
The government have asked the
country to decide by a vote.

The verb agree with a closely preceding
noun phrase in preference to with the
head of the noun phrase that functions as
The verb should agree with the closer of
the two subjects.
e.g. Either you or I am responsible for the
No one except his own supporters
agree with him.
Brief summary of the three
The grammatical concord is the basic
principle, and generally applies to formal
English. The other two, on the other hand,
play an auxiliary role in informal English.
Usual l y grammati cal concord and
notional concord coincide. Problems often
arise when the grammatical concord comes
i nto the confl i ct wi th the other two.
2. Problems of concord with
collective nouns as subject
Collective nouns are singular in form
but plural in meaning.
The choice between grammatical and
notional concord is mostly governed by
2.1 Collective nouns used as plural
They include people, police, cattle,
poultry, vermin etc.
The police are searching for the murderer.
Domestic cattle provide us with milk, beef
and hides.
Poultry are less expensive in rural areas.
2.2 Collective nouns used as Singular
They include foliage, machinery,
furniture, jewelry, merchandise, etc.
All the machinery in that country is made in
Jewelry is no longer a mark of wealth.

2.3 Collective nouns used either as
plural or as singular
They include army, audience, family,
team, committee, class, etc.
The choice of the verb form depends on
the exact meaning of the noun in a
specific context.
when the noun is used as a whole, the
verb takes the singular form. If the noun
is used as the individuals that make the
collective, the verb takes the plural form.
The audience is requested to remain
seated during the intermission.
The audience are listening to a Beethoven

The class are busy taking notes.
The class is a modal one.

3. Problems of concord with nouns
ending in -s
The regular plural is formed by adding
s or es to the base.
Quite a few nouns ending in s are
Some are treated as singular, some as
plural, and some either as singular or as

3.1 Disease and game names ending
in s
They are mostly treated as singular.

Mumps is a kind of infectious disease.
Generally, measles occurs in children.
3.2 Subject names ending in ics

They are generally singular nouns, but
some are treated as plural when used in
other senses.
Mathematics is the study of numbers.
His mathematics are not good.
3.3 Geographical names ending in s

They are usually used as plural except a
few country names..
The Himalayas have a magnificent variety of
plant and animal life.
The West Indies are commonly divided into
two parts.

* The United States is a country of
people with varied origins.

The United Nations was founded in

3.4 other nouns ending in s
Names for things made of two parts
such as scissors, glasses, trousers, shorts,
etc. are used as plural.
His trousers are torn.
Nouns usually taking plural endings
such as arms, clothes, contents, goods,
etc. are used as plurals.
High wages often result in high prices.
4. Problems of concord with a
coordinate subject
4.1 Coordination with and or both and
It is usually treated as plural when it refers to
two or more persons/things, but as singular
when it refers to only one person or thing.
Peter and Bob are deadly rivals.
Both John and his son have gone fishing.
*The poet and musician visits our school
Ham and egg is a good breakfast.
Every boy and every girl was asked to
complete the form.

4.2 coordination with or/ either or,
nor/ neither nor, not only but
It is generally dealt with according to the
principle of proximity.
Neither you nor your husband is responsible
for the mistake.
Not only the students but also their teacher
has participated in the game.

4.3 subject + as well as, in addition to,
together with, etc.

Subjects linked by as well as, etc,
normally comply with the principle of the
grammatical concord.
e.g. The President, as well as his advisors, was
aware of the risk of the mission.
The head coach, together with his team,
was overjoyed when they won the NBA final.

5. Expressions of quantity as
5.1 Definite quantity as subject
a. When it is regarded a single unit, the
verb takes a singular form.
Six months is too short a time.
A hundred dollars is a large sum of
money to a university student.
b. When it is used in the sense of the individuals,
the verb takes the plural form.

The first two years were quite successful.

There are six dollars in his pocket.

c. a fraction/percentage + of-phrase as
The verb form is determined by the
noun in the of-phrase.
Over 60% of the city was destroyed in
the war.
Two-thirds of the students are willing to
take the test.
d. one in/out of + plural noun as subject
The verb takes the singular form in
formal style, but plural in informal style.
One in ten students has / have failed
the exam.

5.2 Indefinite quantity as subject
a. all of, some of, none of, half of + noun
as subject
The verb is determined by the noun in of-
Some of the money has been stolen.
Half of the students are girls.
b. a portion of, a series of, a pile of, or this
kind/sort/type of, + noun as subject

The verb invariably takes the singular form.
A substantial portion of the report is missing.

A series of accidents has been reported.
c. many a/more than one + noun as
This kind of noun phrase, though notionally
plural, is treated as singular.
Many a man has done his duty.
More than one student has failed the
6.Other problems
6.1 Nominal clauses as subject
Generally, a one-clause subject takes the
singular verb, and a two-clause subject,
the plural verb.
What caused the accident was a complete
What he did and what he said are totally
*What she wanted from him were just

6.2 Non-finite clauses as subject
The verb usually takes the singular form.
Playing tennis is a very good exercise.
To eat well is all he asks.
* Singing and dancing are her favorite
To eat to live and to live to eat
constitute two different attitudes towards
6.3 Concord in existential sentence

The verb agrees with the notional subject.
There is a note left on the desk.
There are three routes you can take.
*There is a sofa and two chairs in the room.
(principle of proximity)
6.4 Concord in relative clauses

a. In the construction of one of + plural
noun + relative clause, the principle of
proximity is generally preferred (especially
in BE).
She is one of the girls who have trouble
making up their minds.

b. When one is premodified by the or the
only/very , the verb can only be singular.

She is the only one of her family who
has trouble making up her mind.
Exercises :
1. The committee ( has, have) agreed to the
2. The suite of furniture he bought (was,
were) of contemporary design.
3. The statistics on traffic accidents in this
city (is, are) increasing
4. The New York Times (is, are) published
5. War and peace (is, are) a constant
theme in history.
6. Thirty miles (seems, seem) a long
walk to me.
7. Many a boy (was, were) disappointed
after seeing the film.
8. There (is, are) more than one answer
to the question.

9. All of the fruit (looks, look) ripe.
10. The greater part of the valley (was,
were) flooded.
11. What they want (is, are) some financial
12. She is the only one of these women who
never (cares, care) her look.
1. Read page 28-52.

2. Do the exercises 2B and 3C.

Thank you!
Satheesan punyam