When you are writing, you must take steps to make sure that your writing flows and makes sense together. One of these steps includes following the basic rules for subject-verb agreement.
At its core, subject-verb agreement is precisely what it says it is: when your subject and verb agree. Specifically, if your subject is singular, your verb should be singular. If your subject is plural, your verb should be plural, etc.
There are many rules for correctly using the subject-verb agreement, and this guide features the top 10 most common. Additionally, we have included a resource for the other rules at the end of this guide.
What is the Subject-Verb Agreement?
Subject-verb agreement, at its core, is simple. When writing, your subject and verb should… agree! This means that if your subject is plural (we, they, us), your verb should also be plural (ran, played, skipped).
|Core Rule: A singular subject must be paired with a singular verb. A plural subject must be paired with a plural verb.|
Of course, with anything in the English language, numerous rules will guide a writer on the correct usage when it comes to subject-verb agreement.
Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 1
|When the subject of a sentence has two or more nouns (or pronouns) connected by and, the verb should be plural.|
When you are combining a list of nouns that are connected with an and, you must make the verb plural to reflect the plural subject.
For example, A plane and a helicopter are two options for air travel.
There are certain exceptions to this rule that include the use of compound nouns. A compound noun is a noun that is comprised of two or more words. For example, tooth and paste, come together to form toothpaste.
In the case of subject-verb agreement, compound nouns could include words like macaroni and cheese or salt and pepper. These compound nouns should be treated as a singular subject and will accompany a singular verb.
Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 2
|When there is one subject, but more than one verb, all verbs must agree with the subject.|
If a sentence only has one subject, but multiple verbs, all of the verbs should agree with the original subject.
For example, A book is an excellent resource to find out more about sharks.
Rules are meant to be followed and adhered to in the game of Quiddich.
Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 3
|When an offset phrase separates a subject and verb, the verb must still agree with the subject (not the noun or pronoun).|
Many sentences feature an aside separated by two commas. When these asides are included, you must make sure that your original subject and verbs following the aside should agree.
For example, The students, as well as the teacher, are worried about the big test.
The chef, who has written numerous cookbooks, had never eaten snails before.
This rule also applies to the use of parentheses in sentences.
Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 4
|When two or more singular nouns are connected with an “or” or “nor,” they are considered singular.|
When writing a sentence that presents options separated with “or,” the verb is treated singularly.
For example, The manager on duty or supervisor can approve overtime requests.
There is an exception to this rule called the rule of proximity. The rule of proximity states that if two nouns are together in a sentence, the verb form should follow the subject immediately before the verb.
For example, The teachers and the student were happy to deliver the care packages to the nursing home.
Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 5
|When the words, “each”, “each one”, “either”, “neither”, “everyone”, “everybody”, “anyone”, “anybody”, “nobody”, “somebody”, “someone”, and “no one” are considered singular and should be used with a singular verb.|
When using any of the connectors as mentioned above with two singular subjects, make sure to use a singular verb.
For example, Somebody is knocking on the door.
Neither Jeff nor Gerald is prepared for the exam today.
Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 6
|A noncount noun should be used in the singular form.|
A noncount noun is a noun that is abstract and cannot be measured. These nouns are nondescript but represent an overarching idea. Noncount nouns include abstract concepts (like happiness, education, and time), disease (instead of using specific disease names), subjects of study, and more.
When you are using noncount nouns in your writing, it should be treated as a singular noun, and the verbs should follow suit in the singular form.
For example, The disease has very little research to indicate a cure.
Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 7
|When using nouns that qualify quantity, use the plural form.|
Countable nouns, like earnings, goods, surroundings, and valuables, only have a plural form, and the verbs should agree in the plural form.
For example, The proceeds from the fundraiser go directly to the children’s hospital.
Agreement Rule 8
|If a sentence begins with “there is” or “there are” the subject will follow the verb.|
Since “there” is not a subject, you must follow the verb as an indication of the subject form.
For example, There are many reasons why the children wanted to go on a field trip.
Agreement Rule 9
|Collective nouns should be used with a singular verb.|
Collective nouns, or nouns that are singular but represent a group of things (like family, class, and team), should be used with singular verbs.
For example, The class is excited to perform their play for the school.
One exception to this rule, which is highly uncommon. You should use the plural verb if the focus is on the individuals within a group.
For example, The class participate in various sports outside of school.
When you run into an issue like this, it is recommended to rewrite the sentence whenever possible. For example, Many of the students enjoy playing sports when not in school, which would be a more precise (and correct) sentence.
When using contractions, specifically, there’s, make sure that you are using it in the singular form. Since there’s is a contraction for there is, it should never be used in the plural form (assuming that there are means there are).
Your Key to Avoiding Red Pen Reviews
We’ve all been there, after tirelessly crafting an essay we’re proud of, a teacher returned it covered in red ink. These edits, while necessary for learning purposes, can be a blow to the ego!
Many of these edits can include the misuse of subject-verb agreement.
As this guide has demonstrated, there are many rules on the correct usage of subject-verb agreement. However, hopefully, this guide has also shown you that the rules are simple to follow and apply.
Going back to the most basic form of subject-verb agreement from the beginning of this guide that the subject and the verb will follow each other in terms of form.
It is with this basic rule that you will be able to solve most of your subject-verb agreement issues, but if you run into any questions, always return to this guide for consulting.
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