Subject – Verb Agreement

How to make sure that your subjects agree with your verbs

Subject/ verb agreement means that subjects and verbs must agree with each other in number. In other words, 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. Situation number one”

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

            He and his sisters are on vacation.

2.         When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, you          use a singular verb. Like in this example:

      The chairman or the secretary is at the meeting.

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 nearest to the verb.

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


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

4.         Number four is about not being misled by phrases that come between the subject and the verb. You just have to make sure that the verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun that might be in the phrase.

            One of the men is injured.

            The girl with all the dogs walks down the road.

5.         Number 5. 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.

6.         Number 6 is about what to do with nouns such as mathematics, civics, euros, measles, and news. Although they also need singular verbs.

            The news comes on at ten o’clock.

            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.

7.         Number 7. Plural verbs are used for nouns like scissors, tweezers, trousers, etc.           

            Those trousers look very cool on you.

8.         Moving on to number 8. When using sentences beginning with there is or there are, make sure the subject follows the verb.

            There is one option

There are many possibilities.

9.         Number 9. 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 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 papers on different topics, probably       at different times during the year. They don’t operate in unison towards the same goal.

10.      The last one is number 10. When you use expressions like including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well, etc., 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.

Revising Mixed Constructions

How to correct sentences in which the subject is created through incorrect use of dependent clauses, prepositional phrases or independent clauses.

In order to be able to revise or even recognize mixed constructions in your writing it is important to understand what they are first. A mixed construction is created when a dependent clause, prepositional phrase or an independent clause is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence.

So, let’s take a look at what it looks like when a dependent clause is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence:

Because he works eleven hours every day explains why he is always tired.

To be able to understand this example it is important to know what a dependent clause is first. A dependent clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb but which does not express a complete thought. For this reason, it is not a sentence and can’t stand alone. The dependent clause in this sentence is: Because he works eleven hours every day, and in this case this entire clause is incorrectly used as subject here. A revised version of this sentence could look like this:

Because he works eleven hours every day, he is always tired.

If you get rid of ‘explains why’ the clause ‘Because he works eleven hours every day’ is combined with an independent clause (He is always tired) and together they now form a grammatically correct sentence that expresses a complete thought.

The following sentence contains a mixed construction because, what’s called, a prepositional phrase is incorrectly used as the subject of the sentence.

By enlisting in the army is a good way to see the world.

Prepositions are words like at, on, in, by, etc., and if a phrase starts with one of these words, this phrase is called a prepositional phrase. You create a mixed construction if you use this type of phrase as the subject of a sentence, which was the case here. ‘By enlisting in the army.’ is an incorrectly used.

After revision the sentence looks like this:

By enlisting in the army, you can see the world.

The prepositional phrase is still there but you now is the subject of the sentence.

Sometimes independent clauses are also incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence, like in the following example:

She was rich made her buy more than she needed.

An independent clause is a sentence with a subject and a verb that expresses a complete thought and that, therefore, can stand alone. However, in this case it is incorrectly used as the subject of a sentence.

She was rich is the independent clause here that was incorrectly used as a subject, and the sentence can be rewritten like this:

Being rich made her buy more than she needed.

Being rich is now the subject of the sentence and now the sentence works.