Subject-verb Agreement


Basic principles: 

Singular subjects need singular verbs; plural subjects need plural verbs

  My brother is a good person.  
  My hobbies are reading and sleeping.  
  1. When subject of sentence is made up of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.

Example: She and her friends are at the fair.




     2.   When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.

Example: The book or the pen is in the drawer.




             3.    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 nearer the verb.

Example: The boy or his friends run every day. (verb ‘run’ agrees to his friends)

His friends or the boy runs every day. (verb ‘runs’ agrees to the boy)




4. Doesn't is a contraction of does not and should be used only with a singular subject. Don't is a contraction of do not and should be used only with a plural subject. **The exception to this rule appears in the case of the first person and second person pronouns I and you. With these pronouns, the contraction don't should be used.

Example: He doesn't like it.

They don't like it.

I don't like it.




5. Do not be confused by the words or phrases that come between the subject and verb. The verb will always agree with the subject, not with the nouns/pronouns/phrases.

Examples: One of the boxes is open (verb ‘is’ agrees to subject one)

The team captain, as well as his players, is anxious.

(verb ‘is’ agrees to team captain)

The woman with all the dogs walks down my street.

(verb ‘walks’ agrees to the woman)




6. The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb.

Example: Everybody knows Mr. Jones.

Either is correct.

Each of these hot dogs is juicy.




7. Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and news require singular verbs.

Examples: The news is on at six.




8. Nouns such as scissors, tweezers, trousers, and shears require plural verbs. (There are two parts to these things.)

Examples: These scissors are dull.

Those trousers are made of wool.




9. 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.

Examples: There are many questions. (verb ‘are’  follows many questions, not there)

There is a question.




10. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person but that are considered singular and take a singular verb, such as group, team, committee, class, and family.

Examples: The team runs during practice.

The family has a long history.

My family has never been able to agree.




11. Expressions such as with, together with, including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well do not change the number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is too.

Examples: The President, accompanied by his wife, is traveling to India.

All of the books, including yours, are in that box.