Subject/Verb Agreement

Subject/ verb agreement means that subjects and verbs must agree with each other in number. In other words, this means that if the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb that goes with it needs to be singular as well, and if the subject is plural, the verb needs to be plural. Even though this seems pretty straightforward there are some situations in which using the right form of the verb could cause problems.

In the sentence, ‘My brother is taking the bus to school,’ for example, ‘brother’ is a singular noun so the singular verb ‘is’ needs to be used. However, in the sentence ‘My brother, as well as most of his friends, is taking the bus to school.’ It is a lot less clear whether a singular or a plural verb needs to be used. The following guidelines will help you make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs.

  1. When the subject is made up of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and you need to use a plural verb. So,

       He and his sisters are on vacation.

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

      The chairman or the secretary is at the meeting.

  1. 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.

            The owner or his employees go to the bank every day.


            The employees or the owner goes to the bank every day. 

  1. You may be misled by phrases that come between the subject and the verb, but you have to make sure that the verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or             pronoun in the phrase.

One of the men is injured.

            The girl with all the dogs walks down the road.

  1. You should use singular verbs with the words: each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one.

            Each of these books is good.

            Nobody ever calls the emergency number.

  1. Nouns such as mathematics, civics, euros, measles, and news also need singular verbs.

          The news comes on at ten.

Note: words like euros or, for example, dollars, are a special case. When you are             talking about an amount of money, you need to use a singular verb, but if you are             are referring to the euros or dollars themselves, so the currency, you need to use             a plural verb. So,

             Ten euros for a ticket sounds quite cheap.

            Euros are often used instead of pounds.

  1. You need to use plural verbs for nouns like scissors, tweezers, trousers, etc.

           Those trousers look very cool on you.

  1. When using sentences beginning with there is or there are, make sure the subject follows the verb. So,

            There are many possibilities.

            There is one option. 

  1. Collective nouns, so nouns that are considered singular but are usually made up of multiple members, like team, committee, class, family, etc. take a singular verb             when they operate together as a group . Like in:

            The team lifts weights a part of their practice.

            The committee votes on the proposal.

If the members of the group represented by the collective noun operate             independently, (so doing different things probably at different times) you should             use a plural verb. Like in:

            The class write their thesis papers this year.

This means that the people in the class write theses on different topic, probably             at different times during the year. They don’t operate in unison for the same goal.

  1. Finally, when you use expressions like including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well, the number of the subject does not change. If the subject is singular, so             is the verb.

           The King, accompanied by the Queen, is visiting the Netherlands.