Topic outline

    • Subject - Verb Agreement

      Subject is the person, place, thing or idea about which we are talking about in the sentence. A verb is used to describe an action, state or occurrence. Every sentence has subject and suitable verb. Subjects and verbs must agree with one another in number (singular or plural). This is called subject verb agreement.

      Now, Read the following two sentences:-

           1.   Dia are washing the dishes in the kitchen.

           2.   The girls likes ice cream.

      Do you find any problem in above two sentences?

      Yes of course. The above 2 sentences have subject-verb agreement problems.


      Basic Rule: If the subject is plural, a plural verb is required and if the subject is singular, a singular verb is required.

      Let’s fix the above two sentences as per the basic rule.

           1.   Dia is washing the dishes in the kitchen.

           Here subject (Dia) is singular. So we will use singular form of verb (is).

           2.   The girls like ice cream.

           Here subject is plural (girls). So we will use verb (like).

      Rule 1: When two singular subjects are connected by the words “or”, “either/or”, “neither/nor” requires singular verb.


           1.   Neither Ria nor Tia is coming today.

           2.   Either Priya or Shreya is helping today in role play preparation.

      3.   Tim or Tom is to blame for the project delay.


      Rule 2: When one subject is singular and other is plural are connected by the words “or”, “either/or”, “neither/nor”, “not only/but also” then look at the closest subject to the verb. If the subject closest to the verb is singular, use a singular verb and if the subject is plural, use a plural verb. Neither and either sometimes take a plural form of verb when these pronouns are followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with of.


           1.   Neither my sisters nor my father is going to the party today.

           2.   Either my father or my sisters are going to the party today.

           3.   Are either my friends or my brother responsible?

           4.   Is either my brother or my friends responsible?  

           5.   Not only Ayush but also Arya wants to visit Taj Mahal.

           6.   Neither the teacher nor the students use the smart board in the class.

      Rule 3: When two or more subjects are joined by “and” require plural form of verb. But this rule does not apply in case of compound noun.


           1.   The dog and the cat are jumping over the fence.

           2.   Ria and her friends are at the book fair.


      Rule 4: In case of nouns such scissors, trousers, tweezers, pliers, binoculars, glasses, jeans, pants, shorts etc. (thing made of two parts) require plural verbs unless they're preceded by the phrase pair of.


           1.   These glasses are very expensive.

           2.   A pair of plain trousers is in the almirah.


      Rule 5: Collective nouns are considered singular and hence requires singular verb.


           1.   Our team is doing well in this match.

           2.   Her family is very helpful.

           3.   The committee is discussing the problem.

      Rule 6: In case of indefinite pronoun such as anyone, everyone, anybody, everybody, someone, somebody, no one, nobody are singular and require singular form of verbs.


           1.   Somebody is here.

           2.   Everyone has finished his or her project.

           3.   Everybody knows about Mrs. X.

           4.   Everybody is ready to help her.

           5.   Anyone who wants to pursue higher education has to clear entrance tests.


      Rule 7: In case of pronoun such as few, both, many, several and some almost always requires plural form of verbs.


            1.   Some people in my neighbor are very helpful.

            2.   Few things were left to be done.


      Rule 8: In case of pronoun such as all and some refer to singular or plural depending on what they are pointing to.  


           1.   Some marbles are missing.

           2.   Some of the liquid is used.

      Rule 9: In case of word that end in –s but are singular require singular verbs and in case of word that end in –s but are plural require plural verbs.


           1.   The news is so embarrassing.

           2.   Our sincere thanks go to our principal.

           3.   The media have exposed the facts.


      Rule 10: In case of relative pronouns such as who, whom, which, that etc. are considered either singular or plural depending upon the words they are pointing to.


           1.   The marketing manager is a good researcher who spends enough time to study the market.

           2.   The marketing managers are good researchers who spend enough time to study the market.


      Rule 11: In case of words is joined to a singular subject by ‘as well as’ or ‘with’ we use singular form of helping verb.


            1.   The purse, with all my all cards, is lost.

            2.   The CEO, as well as his team members, was forced to resign.

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