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Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement

Author: Rebecca Oberg

This learning packet should review:
-How to avoid common errors in subject-verb agreement, such as:
--Compounding subjects
--Misleading phrases between the subject and verb
--Wordsd such as everybody, neigher, anybody, everyone, someone, etc.
--Misleading singular nouns such as dollars, news, etc.
--Collective nouns
--Any other constructions that lead to mistakes in subject-verb agreement

This learning packet offers a variety of ways for learners to engage with the fairly straightforward concept of subject-verb agreement (this concept is key to effective writing). The packet includes a helpful slide show presentation, a video clip offering examples and explanations, as well as two engaging and user-friendly articles further articulating the concept in an accessible way.

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Subject-Verb Agreement: Five Trouble Spots

This succinct slide show presentation offers learners a basic review of subject-verb agreement and gives further detail about five specific scenarios that often cause grammar problems in the subject-verb department.

Grammar Girl Takes On Subject-Verb Agreement

Now, let's learn now to boost your immunity to the illness that kills your credibility: subject-verb inflammatory disease.

What is Subject-Verb Agreement?

Before you can do surgery on your writing, you need to brush up on your subject-verb anatomy. A singular subject agrees with a singular verb, and a plural subject agrees with a plural verb. A singular subject involves a single item or person: “the rolling gurney” or “a surgical patient.” A plural subject involves more than one item or person: “some badly written hospital signs” or “the shocked copy editors.”

Your subject-verb agreement is most likely fine when the subject is close to the verb, as it is here: “The rolling gurney is about to crash into the unwary sign writer!” The singular subject gurney pairs up with the singular verb is. I’m certain, though, that you sometimes commit a ghastly grammar goof when the subject is far from the verb. Be especially careful of compound subjects, which contain an and. Amnesiac writers forget about the first part of their subject, so they use the wrong verb. This was certainly the problem on Doctor Doofus’ phone system; the compound subject “patience and consideration” belongs with are, not is.

Now that you’re awake we can examine another reason you might be giving your readers an ulcer. The problem we’re dealing with here is stuff—and, mind you, “stuff” is a real medical term. This sneaky stuff distracts you into using the wrong verb. The troublemakers that come between your subject and verb include prepositional phrases (such as “in the operating room”) and that, who or which clauses. Let’s look back at our friend the hospital sign that read "The use of cell phones and pagers are prohibited." The prepositional phrase “of cell phones and pagers” is in the way. The subject of that sentence is use, which is singular, so the verb should be is. And that is that.

Source:, modified by Rebecca Oberg

Subject-Verb Agreement: Some Examples Explained

A grammar/writing expert offers some helpful examples of subject-verb agreement with detailed explanations.

Source: YouTube

Making Subjects and Verbs Agree: Quick Tips

Take a peek at these 11 helpful guidelines for subject-verb agreement. Note that in the examples and practice sentences, verbs are in red and subjects are in green.

 1. When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.

She and her friends are at the fair.

2. When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.

The book or the pen is in the drawer.

3. When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb.

The boy or his friends run every day.

His friends or the boy runs every day.

4. Doesn't is a contraction of does not and should be used only with a singular subject. Don't is a contraction of do not and should be used only with a plural subject. The exception to this rule appears in the case of the first person and second person pronouns I and you. With these pronouns, the contraction don't should be used.

He doesn't like it.

They don't like it.

5. Do not be misled by a phrase that comes between the subject and the verb. The verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun in the phrase.

One of the boxes is open

The people who listen to that music are few.

The team captain, as well as his players, is anxious.

The book, including all the chapters in the first section, is boring.

The woman with all the dogs walks down my street.

6. The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb.

Each of these hot dogs is juicy.

Everybody knows Mr. Jones.

Either is correct.

7. Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and news require singular verbs.

The news is on at six.

Note: the word dollars is a special case. When talking about an amount of money, it requires a singular verb, but when referring to the dollars themselves, a plural verb is required.

Five dollars is a lot of money.

Dollars are often used instead of rubles in Russia.

8. Nouns such as scissors, tweezers, trousers, and shears require plural verbs. (There are two parts to these things.)

These scissors are dull.

Those trousers are made of wool.

9. In sentences beginning with there is or there are, the subject follows the verb. Since there is not the subject, the verb agrees with what follows.

There are many questions.

There is a question.

10. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person but that are considered singular and take a singular verb, such as: group, team, committee, class, and family.

The team runs during practice.

The committee decides how to proceed.

The family has a long history.

My family has never been able to agree.

In some cases in American English, a sentence may call for the use of a plural verb when using a collective noun.

The crew are preparing to dock the ship.

This sentence is referring to the individual efforts of each crew member. The Gregg Reference Manual provides excellent explanations of subject-verb agreement (section 10: 1001).

11. Expressions such as with, together with, including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well do not change the number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is too.

The President, accompanied by his wife, is traveling to India.

All of the books, including yours, are in that box.

Source:, modified by Rebecca Oberg