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Subject-Verb Agreement

Agreement
Present tense verbs in English should agree with

the subject of the sentence Singular subjects use singular verbs


Jack robs liquor stores (s on the verb)
Plural subjects use plural verbs

Bonnie and Clyde rob banks (no s on the verb)


Most native speaker do this instinctively More complex problems require you to learn a few

rules

Identify the Subject


Ignore words that come between the subject and

the verb Reduce sentences to their simplest form

A good set of skis costs / cost hundreds of dollars A good set of skis costs / cost hundreds of dollars A good set of skis costs hundreds of dollars My boss, as well as her staff, leave / leaves early every Friday My boss, as well as her staff, leave / leaves early every Friday My boss, as well as her staff, leaves early every Friday

Compound Subjects using And


Most compound subjects joined by and are plural

Bert and Ernie is / are special friends Bert and Ernie is / are special friends (plural verb)
Exception: If the words joined by and refer to a

single thing, the subject is also singular


War and Peace is a very thick book (singular) My friend and co-worker is waiting to see you (singular)

Compound Subjects using Or

When the subject is joined with or or nor the verb agrees with the words closest to the verb
Neither the instructor nor the students has / have any control over the number of 8 oclock classes Neither the instructor nor the students has / have any control over the number of 8 oclock classes (plural verb) Either two credit cards or a membership is / are needed before you can rent movies Either two credit cards or a membership is / are needed before you can rent movies (singular verb)
Note: While the above example is correct, it is usually better to place the plural word closer to the verb

Either a membership or two credit cards are needed before you can rent movies (plural verb)

Indefinite Pronouns
Indefinite pronouns are singular

every, everyone, everybody, each, neither, either, none, one, no one


Every student has / have a unique student number Every student has / have a unique student number None of us admit / admits to sending the e-mail message None of us admit / admits to sending the e-mail message

Ignore prepositional phrases coming between the

subject and the verb


Each of the five departments is / are hiring new instructors Each of the five departments is / are hiring new instructors

Collective Nouns
Words such as jury, committee, or herd will be

singular when everyone in the group is acting together


The jury is / are deciding the fate of the accused The jury is / are deciding the fate of the accused

Collective nouns will be plural when the members

of the group are not acting together

The jury is / are undecided on the guilt of the accused The jury is / are undecided on the guilt of the accused

Here, There, and It


When the sentence begins with Here or There, the

subject follows the verb and controls whether the verb is plural
Here are my reasons for quitting (plural) There is no need to pay me next week (singular) It is always singular It was the long hours that bothered me (singular)

Words Ending in S
Words such as economics, AIDS, physics and

news are singular


Economics is fun and exciting The news is usually broadcast live
Words such as scissors, eyeglasses and pants

that name things with two parts are plural


My glasses were broken when I did a face plant

Money and Measurement


Units of time, money, distance, and weight use

singular verbs
Twenty kilometres is a long distance to skate to work each day Eight dollars an hour is a poor rate
The expression the number is singular

The number of failures is decreasing


The expression a number is plural

A number of people are leaving

Titles
The title of a movie, book or magazine requires a

singular verb
Lost Horizons is a book about a utopia The Simpsons is my favourite TV show