Making Subjects and Verbs Agree
Ever get "subject/verb agreement" as an error on a paper? This handout will help you understand this common grammar problem.
Contributors:Joshua M. Paiz, Chris Berry, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2014-04-01 10:34:43
This handout gives you several guidelines to help your subjects and verbs agree.
1. When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.
2. When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7. Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and news require singular verbs.
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.
8. Nouns such as scissors, tweezers, trousers, and shears require plural verbs. (There are two parts to these things.)
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.
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.
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.