Subject verb agreement
Subject verb agreement can be one of the more challenging aspects when attempting
to write a paper. For the subject and verb to be in agreement, both must
be in either singular or plural form. While this may appear to be an easy
topic when dealing with short sentences, getting subject verb agreement correct
when dealing with sentences containing compound subjects can prove to be
a difficult task.
For the examples below all subjects will be in italics and all verbs
will be in bold.
To ensure that the subject and verb agree in a sentence there are three
key steps that must be followed. Following these steps should provide a guide
to using proper verbs in relation to the subject. The steps are as follows.
- Identify the subject of the sentence.
- Determine whether the subject is singular or plural.
- Examine the verb and verify that the correct form, singular or plural,
has been used in the sentence.
Singular subjects occur in sentences where there is only a single item in
the subject of the sentence. The key is to identify the subject by removing
any prepositional phrases or clauses that occur before the verb. Then based
upon whether the subject is singular or plural use a like verb.
The boy plays with the ball.
The children play the ball.
The boy with the baseballs plays many sports. (‘With the baseballs,’
is a preposition phrase and should be skipped.)
The children in the fort with the red flag play capture the
flag. (The portion of the sentence ‘in the fort with the red flag’ contains
two preposition phrases, but these should be ignored and only the subject
should be examined.)
One type compound subject is one that uses a conjunction such as ‘and’ to
combine two nouns into one subject. As a general rule, these subjects should
be treated as if they are plural.
Dogs and cats are not normally such good friends in
There are, however, occasions where sentences will use ‘or,’ ‘nor,’ ‘either.
‘neither. . .nor,’ ‘not...but,’ to create a compound subject. To have proper
subject verb agreement in this circumstance have the verb agree with the
subject that is closest to it.
Do you know if the shrubs or the pine tree is scheduled to
Neither the baker nor the carpenters are willing to agree
to your terms.
Pronouns should be treated as if they are singular nouns. Pronouns include
such words as: "anybody," "anyone," "each," "either," "everybody," "everyone," "neither," "no
one," "nobody," "one," "somebody," and "someone."
Everybody walks home after practice.
Neither was charged for the extra drinks at dinner.