Subject Verb Agreement

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  • Topic: Grammatical number, Pronoun, Indefinite pronoun
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Subject / Verb Agreement

As you know, when words agree they are of the same number. This concept means that take singular . subjects take plural verbs. Singular means one; plural means more than one. CHOOSE BETWEEN SINGULAR AND PLURAL VERBS

To decide whether to use a singular or a plural verb, first determine whether your subject is singular or plural. Most plural nouns end in –s or –es. Singular: Plural: horse, dress horses, dresses

With singular nouns, use verbs that end in –s or –es. Otherwise, use the simple form of the verb. Singular: Plural: CAUTION: The horse runs through the field. Horses run through the field. Use verbs that end in –s or –es with pronouns in the third person singular. These are he, she, it, and one. Otherwise, use the basic form of the verb.


Subject Joined By AND Use plural verbs with compound subjects, which are joined by and. Brazil and Argentina border [not borders] Uruguay. Where were [not was] she and you on the night of the murder? Subject Joined by OR Use singular verbs with subjects joined by or if both subjects are singular. Bill or Sam has [not have] been elected to feed the pig. Use plural verbs with subjects joined by or if both subjects are plural. I can’t remember whether the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges are [not is] her favorite comedians. If one subject is singular and the other is plural, the verb agrees with the one that is closer to it. Millie’s brother or her sisters are scheduled to visit next October.

BUT Millie’s sisters or her brother is scheduled to visit next October. COMPOUND SUBJECTS FOLLOWED BY SINGULAR COMPLEMENTS

A complement is a noun or adjective that describes the subject but comes after the verb. When a compound subject is followed by a complement, the verb is plural even if the complement is singular. Overeating and forcing yourself to vomit are [not is] a symptom of bulimia. COMPOUND SUBJECTS THAT NAME THE SAME PERSON, PLACE, OR THING

When the parts of a compound subject name the same person, place, or thing, the verb is singular. The commander of the colonial army and our first president was [not were] George Washington. COMPOUND SUBJECTS AS ONE UNIT

When two subjects form a unit, the verb should be singular. Peas and carrots is [not are] my favorite side dish. CAUTION: When the subjects are considered separate items, the verb should be plural. Peas and carrots grow [not grows] in the garden by the window. RELATIVE PRONOUNS FOLLOWING COMPOUND SUBJECTS

When a relative pronoun (that, which, who, whom, or whose) refers to compound elements, the verb following that pronoun is plural. Spanish and Portuguese, which are [not is] Romance languages, are both spoken in Europe and South America. ADJECTIVES USED TO FORM COMPOUND SUBJECTS

If separate are used to distinguish two types of the same noun, the verb is plural even if the noun is singular. College and professional football share [not shares] many of the same rules.


When a pronoun – who, which, or that – is a subject, make the verb agree with its , the word to which a pronoun refers. The movie was about a woman who wins the lottery. The subject of who wins the lottery is who. The antecedent of who is woman. Woman is singular; therefore, who takes a singular verb, wins. GERUNDS AS SUBJECTS

A is a noun that ends in –ing and that stands for an activity: running, writing, studying, working, reading, understanding. Deal with gerunds as you would other nouns. Donating food at our church helps [not help] the needy. Swimming and running are [not is] my favorite exercises. SENTENCES THAT BEGIN WITH THERE I HERE

If a sentence begins with there or here, the subject comes after the verb. Look for it there. Once there were [not was] two men who claimed to be the true pope. Here are [not is] your two choices: either get a job or get out! VERBS THAT COME...
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