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English Grammar - Subject-Verb Agreement

All sentences have a Subject and a Verb. Subject –Verb agreement refers to the rule in English that a Verb must agree with its Subject at all times.

  • When the Subject is singular, the Verb is singular.

    She is a police officer.
    That boy sings well.
    It licks its paw gently.

  • When the Subject is plural, the Verb is plural.

    They are police officers.
    Those boys sing well.
    Most people like chocolates.

  • When there are two or more singular Subjects joined by ‘and’, the Verb is plural.

    Gladys and Ruby are police officers.
    John, Andy, and Ming sing well.
    Kim and Wang have come to school today.

  • When a singular Subject is joined to other subjects by ‘with’, ‘as well as’, ‘together with’, ‘in addition to’, ‘no less’ etc., the Verb is singular.

    My son, as well as my daughter, likes reading.
    Mari, together with his sister, is going to France.
    The gate, in addition to the wall, was painted bright yellow.

  • When Subjects are separated by ‘all but’, ‘both…and’, the Verb is plural.

    All but Harry have left.
    Both Tina and Anna enjoy singing.

  • When two or more Subjects are preceded by ‘each’, and ‘every’ the Verb is singular.

    Each adult and child has to pay to enter the showroom.
    Every boy and girl likes presents.

  • ‘Either’, ‘neither’, and ‘many a’ must be followed by a singular Verb.

    Neither of the two men was very strong.
    He asked me whether either of the applicants was suitable.

  • Two or more singular Subjects connected by ‘or’ or ‘nor’ require a singular Verb.

    No nook or corner was left unexplored.
    Either the cat or the dog has been here.

  • When one of the subjects joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’ is plural, the Verb must be plural, and the plural Subject should be place nearest the Verb.

    Neither the Chairman nor the directors are present.

  • When the Subjects joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’ are of different Persons, the Verb agrees with the nearer.

    Either he or I am mistaken.
    Neither you nor he is to blame.

  • When two singular Subjects refer to the same person or thing, the Verb is singular.

    Wendy, my good friend and neighbor, is a musician.
    Mr. John, my boss and guide, has taught me how to be a good salesperson.

  • When two Subjects are used to express one idea, the Verb may be singular.

    Bread and butter is all I take for breakfast.
    Time and tide waits for no man.

  • Indefinite pronouns like ‘anybody’, ‘anyone’, ‘everybody’, ‘nobody’, ‘no one’, and ‘somebody’ require a singular Verb.

    Is anyone feeling cold here?
    Everybody loves Carl.
    Somebody has taken my bag.

  • Where a sentence begins with ‘it’, the verb is always singular.

    It is the cat that ate the fish.
    It is the Tans.

  • When a sentence begins with ‘there’ or ‘here’, the verb agrees with the following Subject, not the introductory word.

    Here is your pen.
    Here are the drinks.
    There is nobody in the library.

  • A collective noun takes a singular Verb when it means a group.

    The team wins every time.
    The committee is going to decide.

  • Titles of books, magazines, movies, and newspapers or plays take a singular Verb.

    ‘The Sound of Music’ is a musical film.
    ‘Little Women’ has been read by millions of people.

  • Plural numbers take a singular Verb when they are used in a phrase to mean a sum or unit.

    A million dollars is a lot of money.
    Three years is a long time.

  • Some nouns are plural in form but singular in meaning. They usually take a singular Verb.

    Examples of such nouns are dynamics, economics, electronics, physics, statistics, and mathematics.

    Electronics bores me to death.
    No news is good news.

Worksheet

Fill in the blanks in the following sentences, with the right form of the verb.

  • They ………. a grand party today.
  • Neither my sister nor my brother …………… Mandarin.
  • Josephine and her friend Francine ………. going on a trip.
  • Both my father and my mother ………… books every night before sleep.
  • Not Jane but her sisters ………… interested in watching the Olympics.
  • A handful of seeds …… all the farmer needed.
  • The boy, like his father, ………… very tall.
  • Each pupil ………… given a certificate.
  • ………… anybody seen my pen?
  • The gang of thieves ……….. escaped.

Answers

  • They have a grand party today.
  • Neither my sister nor my brother speaks Mandarin.
  • Josephine and her friend Francine are going on a trip.
  • Both my father and my mother read books every night before sleep.
  • Not Jane but her sisters are interested in watching the Olympics.
  • A handful of seeds was all the farmer needed.
  • The boy, like his father, is very tall.
  • Each pupil was given a certificate.
  • Has anybody seen my pen?
  • The gang of thieves has escaped.


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