Subject – Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement

 

The Subject – Verb Agreement (Concord)

Generally, every sentence in English Grammar contains a subject and a verb. So the verb should agree with its subject in number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third). The basic rule in English is that singular subjects take singular verbs, and plural subjects take plural verbs. 

 

Examples:

Subject and Verb agree in number (singular or plural) 

  • The boy is singing.  (Singular Subject and Singular Verb)
  • The boys are singing.  (Plural Subject and Plural Verb)

Subject and Verb agree in person (first, second, or third)

  • I am a teacher.
  • She is a teacher.
  • He was a lecturer.
  • They are students.
  • You were professors.
  • I have a car.
  • You have a car.
  • She has a car.
  • He has a car.
  • They have a car.

Note:

In the present simple tense, we have to use plural verbs (verbs ending in –s) with the third person singular subjects.

 

Person Singular/Plural Verb
I I, We, You play
II You play
III He, She, It plays
They play
Cat needs our care.
Cats need our care.

SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT RULES:

 

Rule No. 1 

If two or more singular or plural subjects are connected by ‘and’, we use a plural verb.

Examples:

  • Rajinikanth and Kamal are the best actors in the Tamil film industry.
  • Your friends and my friends have joined the party.
  • Kibbu and Shiv speak good English.
  • You, he and I plan to go there.

Note:1

When two subjects joined by ‘and’ represents a single idea or person, it is treated as a single unit (compound subject) and we use a singular verb.

Examples: 

  • Bread and butter is his wholesome food.
  • Time and tide waits for no one.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • His power and position has not helped him.
  • Age and experience brings wisdom to man.

Note:2

When two subjects are joined by ‘and’ and preceded by ‘each’ or ‘every’, we use a singular verb.

Examples: 

  • Every student and teacher has to be  punctual 
  • Each employee and customer is supposed to wear a mask.

 

Rule No. 2

Two or more Nouns refer to the same person or thing: 

When two or more singular nouns refer to the same person or thing, we use a singular verb.

Examples:

  • The correspondent, principal and teacher has been felicitated by the students.
  • The director and producer has addressed the gathering.
  • The secretary and treasurer is visiting the office.

Note: 1

When the two or more nouns refer to the same person or thing, the article or a possessive pronoun is used before the first noun. Here the verb should be singular.

Examples:

  • The/A writer and singer has spoken to the students.
  • The industrialist and philanthropist is undertaking this project.
  • My uncle and guardian has come to see me.

Note: 2

When the nouns refer to different persons or things, the article or a possessive pronoun is used before each noun. Here the verb should be plural.

Examples:

  • A writer and a singer have spoken to the students.
  • The industrialist and the philanthropist are undertaking this project.
  • My uncle and my guardian have come to see me.

 

Rule No. 3

When Collective Nouns are used as Subjects:

Examples:

  • When collective nouns represent a whole group, we use a singular verb.
  • When collective nouns represent a part or parts of the whole group, we use a plural verb.
Collective Nouns can be either singular or plural: 

team, committee, family, crowd, audience, government, parliament, assembly, council, crew, staff, jury, mob, herd, group, fleet,  group, class etc.,

Examples:

  • The staff has undergone a hunger strike.
  • The staff in this school are really hard working. 

 

  • The committee is visiting next week.
  • The committee have solved the major disputes.

 

  • The jury is sitting in the courtroom.
  • The jury are discussing the issue among themselves.

 

  • The whole family is involved in the crime.
  • The family are going on vacation.

 

  • The class is in favour of the teacher.
  • The class are opposing their new teacher. (or)
  • The class members are opposing their new teacher.

 

Rule No. 4

When Uncountable Nouns are used as Subjects:

Some uncountable nouns are always singular. When they are used as subjects, we use a singular verb.  

Uncountable Nouns which are always singular: 

furniture, sugar, water, information, rice, cement, gold, milk, equipment, rubbish, luggage, accommodation, baggage, knowledge, money, traffic, travel. etc., 

Examples:

  • Sugar is sweet.
  • Gold is a precious metal.
  • Knowledge is power.
  • Information, you have gathered, is highly helpful.
  • The furniture, available in this room, is very expensive.

 

Some uncountable nouns are always plural. When they are used as subjects, we use plural verbs.

 groceries, arms, remains, goods, customs,  clothes, thanks, regards, earnings, odds, surroundings,  police, people etc.,

The Uncountable Nouns made of two main parts:

trousers, jeans, pyjamas, pants, scissors, spectacles etc.,

Examples:

  • The police are investigating the murder case.
  • The people have gathered here to meet the Minister.
  • Groceries have been ordered online.
  • Our thanks go to the entire staff in the office.

 

  • My new spectacles have been broken.
  • The trousers are too short for him to wear.

But: A pair of scissors are there in the box.

 

Some uncountable nouns appear plural in form but singular in meaning. When they are used as subjects, we use singular verbs. 

statistics, physics, mathematics, politics, innings, gallows, wages, news, ethics, measles, diabetes, gymnastics etc.,

Examples:

  • No news is good news.
  • Mathematics is not a difficult subject.
  • Ethics is the branch of philosophy.
  • Measles is a disease which we find rarely nowadays.
  • Billiards is a very interesting game.
  • The United States supports every country.
  • ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is an interesting book.

 

Rule No. 5

When Indefinite Pronouns are used as subjects:

When Indefinite Singular Pronouns are used as subjects, we use a singular verb.

Indefinite Singular Pronouns:

another, anyone, anybody, anything, each, either, everyone, everybody, everything, neither, no one, nobody, nothing, someone, somebody etc.,

Examples:

  • One of my friends has gone to the USA.
  • Each of the players is running for the ball.
  • Each of the students has been issued the hall ticket.
  • Every boy and every girl has participated in the event. 
  • Everyone in the office supports Mr. Pavan.
  • Each day, hour, minute and second is given equal importance.
  • Someone in the class is making a noise.
  • Each boy and each girl is attending the class.
  • Nobody tells you the right way.
  • Neither of the two brothers is working in this school.
  • Either of the students has paid the fee.
  • Nothing in this property belongs to you.

 

When the Indefinite Plural Pronouns like ‘several’, ‘both’, ‘many’ and ‘few’ are used as subjects, we use a plural verb.

 Examples:

  • Several of my friends have not participated. 
  • Several are encouraged to participate in this.
  • Both of my dogs are black in colour.
  • Many of the students are not willing to learn online.
  • A few of the employees were selected for the promotion.

 

When the Indefinite Pronouns such as ‘half’, ‘most’, ‘all’ and ‘some’, ‘none’, ‘any’  and fractional expressions such as half of’, ‘a part of’, ‘a percentage of’, ‘a majority of’ are used as subjects, we can use either singular or plural, depending on the context.

Examples:

  • Some of the oil is used for cooking. (singular)
  • Some of the students were not issued the books. (plural)

 

  • All of the property has been registered.
  • All of the properties have been registered.

 

  • Most of the gold has been recovered.
  • Most of the teachers are absent.

 

  • A majority of the older people are involved in voting.
  • A majority of the older population is involved in voting.

 

  • Half of the students are against him.
  • Half of the student community is against him.

 

Rule No. 6

When the subject is connected by ‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘either……or’, or ‘neither……..nor’: 

If two singular subjects are connected by ‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘either……or’, or ‘neither……..nor’,  we use a singular verb.

Examples:

  • My brother or my sister attends marriage.
  • Ashwini nor Amala is available.
  • Either Balu or his brother has written the exam.
  • Neither Ramu nor Nagu works in the bank.

 

If two plural subjects are connected by ‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘either……or’, or ‘neither…..nor’, we use a plural verb.

Examples:

  • The managers or their secretaries try to solve the problem.
  • Either his friends or my friends have visited the circus.
  • Neither the teachers nor the students are attending the assembly.

 

If one subject is singular and one plural, connected by ‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘either……or’, or ‘neither…..nor’,  the verb should agree with the subject nearest to it.

Examples:

  • Swathi or her friends are responsible for it.
  • Either he or I am eligible for the post.
  • Neither the students nor the teacher has attended the assembly.
  • Neither the teacher nor the students have attended the assembly.

 

Rule No. 7

When subjects and verbs are separated by words or phrases:

Sometimes, the subjects and verbs are separated by certain words or phrases. In such cases, we need to be careful to identify the subject and use the suitable verb that agrees with the subject.

To find the subject in a sentence, find the verb and ask who? or what? is doing the action.

Examples:

  • The books collected from old students have been given to the poor.
  • The vehicles parked in this area were fined by the traffic police. 

 

  • The box of groceries from Amazon was delivered yesterday. 
  • The cell phone gifted by my brother is still in use.

 

Rule No. 8

Sometimes, the singular subject is separated from the verb by certain words or phrases like ‘besides’, ‘with’, ‘as along with’, ‘together with’, ‘as well as’, ‘in addition to’, etc., Here we use a singular verb when the subject is singular.

Examples:

  • The Prime Minister, along with Ministers, is visiting Hyderabad.
  • The Principal, as well as the teachers, has been honoured.

 

Rule No. 9

When the relative pronouns ‘who’, ‘which’, and ‘that’ are used in a sentence, we use a singular verb for a singular antecedent and a plural verb for a plural antecedent.

Examples:

  • Krishna is one of those actors who prefer action movies.
  • Can you help the students who get the first rank?
  • The newspapers that I read every day are The Hindu and the Indian Express.

 

  • I met a man who helps the poor.
  • A florist is a person who sells flowers.
  • The snow which fell last night is still causing a traffic jam.

 

Rule No. 10

When we begin the sentences with ‘here’ or ‘there’, the true subject follows the verb.

Examples:

  • There are four students in the class.
  • There is a problem in this game.
  • In the classroom, there are a boy, a girl, and a teacher. 
  • Here are the books you want.
  • Here is a book you want.

 

Rule No. 11

‘A number of’ and ‘the number of’:

The expression ‘a number’ is always plural and takes a plural verb.

The expression ‘the number’ is always singular and takes a singular verb.

 

Examples:

  • A number of students are attending online classes.
  • The number of students is attending online classes.

 

  • A number of actors have contributed to the event.
  • The number of actors has contributed to the event.

 

  • There are a number of important certificates in the file.
  • There is the number of important certificates in the file.

 

  • Here are a number of branded shirts.
  • Here is the number of branded shirts.

Rule No. 12

When a gerund, infinitive, phrase or clause is used as the subject, we use a singular verb.

Examples:

  • Watching TV is not my hobby.
  •  Seeing is believing.
  • To err is human.
  • How to find fault with others has become your hobby.
  • How he confused others was really interesting.

Note:

But when they are linked by ‘and’ they take the plural form.

  • Watching TV and reading a book are difficult.

 

Rule No. 13

When the sum of money is considered as a whole, we use a singular verb. When the same refers to the bills or coins separately, we use a plural verb.

Examples:

  • A thousand rupees has been deposited in the bank.
  • A thousand rupees have been distributed among the prize winners.

 

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