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Subject – Verb Agreement 

Aug 30, 2022
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Read the following sentences: 

  1. My book is missing. 
  2. Marco writes novels. 
  3. Marco and Luke write poetry. 
  4. Tobey was taking a shower when you called. 
  5. Tim and Tom were best friends in school. 

In sentence 1, the subject and the action verb, missing, are connected by the auxiliary verb is. 

In sentence 2, the verb used to convey Marco’s action was writes

But in sentence 3, as there is an addition of one more subject, Luke, the verb inserted there also changes to write. 

Similarly, the remaining sentences also were completed using verbs that seemed appropriate to us. 

This is because we knew that since in sentences 1, 2, and 4, the subjects were in the singular number and therefore, the verbs that follow them, is, writes, and was, must also be singular ones. 

parallel

Similarly, in sentences 3 and 5, as the subjects were in the plural number, the verbs that follow them should also be plural ones. 

We have to be watchful while using verbs that follow the subjects in a sentence because of the existence of a set of rules that make an agreement between the subject and the verb in a sentence. To put it in simple words; the verb must agree with its subject. So, from the above sentences, in sentence 1, the verb is agrees with the subjectmy book, which is singular. And similarly, in sentence 3, the verb write agrees with the subject Marco and Luke, which is plural.The same goes for the remaining sentences as well. 

Let us take a look at the rules that constitute the subject-verb agreement:

Rule 1: 

The subject must agree in number with the verb. To put it simply, a singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject takes a plural verb.This implies that it is only the subject that affects the verb, and nothing else matters. This is the cornerstone rule on which the other rules are based. 

Examples: 

  • The baby is crying. 
  • The boys are laughing. 
  • My friend has a bike. 
  • My friends have bikes. 
  • The story doesn’t sound interesting. 
  • The stories don’t sound interesting. 

If the subject is singular, it is mandatory to add –s, -es, or –iesat the end of the action verb that is in the present tense. 

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Examples: 

  • The star shines at night. 
  • The sun rises in the East. 
  • The cow gives us milk. 

If the subject is plural, we need not add anything at the end of the action verb that is in the present tense. 

Examples: 

  • The stars shine at night. 
  • They like to go on treks. 
  • The cows give us milk. 

Rule 2: 

When two subjects are joined by and, then the verb takes a plural form. 

Examples: 

  • Diamond and platinum are precious metals. 
  • Leo and Kate are good friends. 
  • Were your mother and father at home? 
  • Jack and Jill don’t like each other. 
  • She and I were cooking dinner. 

 But if the nouns in the subject suggest a single idea, or refer to the same person or thing, the verb takes its singular form. 

Examples: 

  • Time and tide waits for no man. 
  • Spaghetti and steak is my favorite food. 
  • My teacher and guide has left the school. 
  • The rise and fall of the empirewasdependent on its ruler. 

Rule 3: 

The verb takes its singular form when words are joined to a singular subject by with, as well as, etc. 

Examples: 

  • The ship, with its crew, was held hostage by the pirates. 
  • English, as well as French, is taught in the university. 
  • The right guidance, as well as empathy, has changed him for good. 

Rule 4: 

Two or more singular subjects when joined by or ornor must be followed by a singular verb. 

Examples: 

  • Either the ice-cream or the doughnut is there at the confectionary store. 
  • Neither you nor he is responsible for the mishap. 
  • No nook or corner of the office was left unchecked. 

But when one of the subjects connected by or or noris plural, the verb should take its plural form, and the plural subject should be placed right near the verb. 

Examples: 

  • Neither the manager nor the interviewers are impressed. 
  • Either the shirt or the shoes are to be thrown away. 

Rule 5: 

The verb that follows words like either, neither, each, everyone, none or many a, should be singular. 

Examples: 

  • Neither of the performances was  impressive. 
  • Let me know if either of the books gets sold. 
  • Each of the works is reviewed strictly. 
  • Everyone of the girls likes to read books. 
  • Many a man does not realize his own mistakes. 
  • None of the ice-creams tastes good. 

Rule 6: 

When the subjects joined by or or norare of different persons, the verb should agree with the nearer noun. 

Examples: 

  • Neither you nor he has passed the exam. 
  • Neither he nor you have passed the exam. 
  • Either you or he is wrong. 
  • Either he or you are wrong. 

Rule 7: 

Two nouns when preceded by each or every should be followed by a singular verb even though they are connected by and. 

Examples: 

  • Each boy and each girlwaskindly requested to fill up the forms. 
  • Each book and each pen costs around $3. 

Rule 8: 

Nouns in plural form with singular meaning are followed by a singular verb. 

Examples: 

  • The news is disgusting. 
  • Mathematics is a tough subject to crack for some people. 
  • The interdepartmental politics has ruined the university’s reputation. 

Rule 9: 

Entities like units of measure, time and amount of money are followed by a singular verb. 

Examples: 

  • $500 is a lot of money. 
  • Two hours was enough for us to finish off work. 
  • Five liters of oil was used by him while cooking. 

Rule 10: 

A collective noun is preceded by a singular verb when the collection is considered as one whole. 

Examples: 

  • The herd of sheep is  flocking into the meadow. 
  • Los Angeles Lakers has been the NBA champions seventeen times. 
  • The Committee has  decided to appoint Vince the President. 

Rule 11: 

Titles of books, movies, and other similar works are always singular, even though they appear plural, and should be preceded by a plural verb. 

Examples: 

  • The Godfather  trilogy is considered the Bible of gangster movies. 
  • Gulliver’s Travels was written by Jonathan Swift. 

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