Subject-Verb Agreement

He agrees with them.
They agree with him.

A Verb must agree with its Subject in Number and Person. A singular subject takes a singular verb; and a plural subject takes a plural verb.

Rules for Agreement of subject and verb:

1) Two or more singular subjects joined by ‘and’ usually take a plural verb.

E.g. – Raman and Harry work hard.

 Air and water are necessary for survival.

  Nancy and I were the hosts of the party.

  The author and the publisher were in a meeting.   

2)   If two nouns suggest only one idea or refer to the same person or thing then it will take a singular verb.

E.g. Slow and steady wins the race.

Beans and rice is her favourite dish.

 The horse and carriage is at the door.

Comfort and luxury has made him lazy.

Bread and butter is a wholesome breakfast.

 Her hard work and dedication has paid off.

The author and publisher, Mr Charles is here amongst us.

 3) Words joined to a singular subject by ‘with’ or ‘ as well as’, ‘together with’, ‘along with’ take a singular verb.

E.g.  Alex as well as  Sharon likes tea.

The house, with its furniture was burnt.  

 Vinn along with his friends is punished.

 I as well as Shirley am going to the park.

Bren as well as his family is shifting to Texas.

The Captain, with all his men, was drowned.

The doctor with his interns has reached the O.T.

The teacher as well as her students is in the class.

The boy with his parents is waiting for the teacher.

Verna with her friends wants to participate in the competition.

The officer as well as his subordinates was present at the meeting.

4) When two or more subjects in the singular are joined by ‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘either or’, ‘ neither nor’– the verb used is singular.

E.g. Jack or Tom is to blame.

Either he or I am to blame.

Either Robert or Arnold was absent.

Neither Robert nor Arnold was present.

5)  When two subjects of a sentence are joined by ‘not only’… ‘ but also…’, ‘ either or’, ‘neither nor’ the verb agrees with the latter subject.

E.g.- Neither Tom nor his friends have come.

Either my friend or I am going to buy this dress.

The farmer or his servants were responsible for the theft.

Not only your certificates but your marks also are important.

Neither Ritu nor her friends are willing to attend the function.

6) When a plural noun (in Prepositional Phrases) comes between a singular subject and its verb, the verb used is singular.

 E.g. The quality of apples was not good.

A combination of colours charms the sky.

  The bag of mangoes is too heavy for the child.

  Much of the hard work of the farmers has been wasted due to drought.

7) ‘ Either’, ‘Neither’, ’Each’, ‘Every’, ‘Everyone’, ‘many a’, ‘one of the’, ‘little’, ‘less’ generally take  a singular verb.

E.g. Either of the boys has done this.

Each of these boys is intelligent.

Neither of them was found guilty.

Each one of her paintings is fantastic.

Much of the homework is already done.

  Every man, woman and child was happy.

  Everyone, whom we invited, has turned up.

  Only one of the five contestants is going to win.

Thanks to metro rail, less of my time is spent on commuting.

8) Some words can refer to amount/quantity as well as number. When, these words refer to amount/ quantity, they take a singular verb. When these words refer to number, they take a plural verb.

None, a lot of, a great deal of, plenty of, most of, etc, are some such words.

  E.g. I] None of the work (amount) was complete.

 None of the strategies (number) have worked.

II] A lot of energy was (amount) wasted on finding the treasure.

 A lot of books have (number)been written.

III] A variety of music is (amount) available here.

  A variety of music albums are (number) available here.

IV] Plenty of help has (amount) been offered to the poor family.

Plenty of trees were (number) planted by students.

9)  A collective noun usually takes a singular verb.

E.g. This pair of scissors is very sharp.

A bunch of keys is kept on the table.

A large crowd makes me feel nervous.

A swarm of bees was buzzing around the tree.

However, collective nouns like – committee, assembly, jury, congress, team- may take a singular or plural verb depending on whether it is taken as singular or plural.

E.g. The committee was united in their opinion

The  committee were divided in their opinion.

My new pair of socks is very tight.

 My new socks are very tight.

The team has decided to follow the strategy.

The team were divided on following the strategy.

10) Some nouns, which are plural in form but singular in meaning, take singular verb.

 E.g. No news is good news.

Measles is a contagious disease.

Mathematics is an interesting subject.

Billiards is fast becoming a popular game.

Physics is considered to be a difficult subject.

 11) Some nouns are singular in form but plural in meaning. We use plural verbs with such nouns.

E.g. – The people are enjoying themselves.

The cattle were driven to the farm.

 The children are playing in the park.

  12) Class nouns like- cutlery, stationery, food, furniture take a singular verb.

E.g.  The food here is quite good.

 The cutlery was well arranged.

 The new furniture is pretty expensive.

  The stationary was available at a cheap price.

13) Weight, measure, time, distance take a singular verb.

  E.g. Five years is a pretty long time.

  A hundred rupees is not a big amount for him.

  Ten kilos of milk was consumed by the players.

  Only one-fourth of the police force was deployed.

14) When a plural noun is the name of one thing it takes a singular verb.

  E.g. ‘ The Arabian Nights’ is a famous book.

 ‘ The United States’ has a big army.

15) When a sentence starts with ‘here‘, ‘there‘ the subject is placed after the verb and will take a singular or plural verb depending on the subject.

E.g. There is a tiger in the forest.

Here are the books that you ordered.

16) Verbs which appear before subjects in interrogative sentences (questions) will be singular or plural according to the subject.

E.g. Where are my keys?

Does she know the answer?

Have they solved the problem?

Is she the girl who won the Quiz?

16. Indefinite pronouns like ‘everyone’, ‘ ‘someone’, ‘nobody’, ‘anyone’ take a singular verb.

E.g. Someone is at the door.

Nobody is perfect.

Has anyone seen my book?

Something is better than nothing.

Everybody was present at the meeting.

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Photo by Oleg Magni.