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Subject-Verb Agreement

Making Subjects and Verbs Agree

Singular Subject = Singular Verb

Plural Subject = Plural Verb

Tip: Plural Verbs look singular (they have NO s). Singular Verbs look plural (they DO have an s).

Balance Your Singulars and Plurals

The film about the forties is . . . The films of the forties are . . . Singular Subject> verb with an s.

Plural Subject> verb with No s.

Balanced Sentences
This presentation is boringSingular subject = Singular Verb Perhaps, not all of the presentations are boringPlural Subject = Plural Verb

Sounds Easy Right?

Key Rules to Subject-Verb Agreement

Look Out For

1. 2. 3. 4. And Or and Nor Doesnt and Dont Prepositional Phrases and Disruptive Word Groups 5. Indefinite Pronouns 6. Singular Nouns That Look Plural 7. Time, weight, distance, and Money 8. Pairs 9. Here and There 10. It 11. Collective Nouns

When several subjects are connected by AND, use a PLURAL verb.
The complaints and questions are frustrating.

Or & Nor
When singular nouns or pronouns are connected by OR or NOR, use a SINGULAR verb. Morgan or Jeni is scheduled to tutor today.

Either . . . Or and Neither . . . Nor

When singular nouns or pronouns are connected by EITHEROR or NEITHERNOR, use a SINGULAR verb. Neither the airline nor the flight attendant is happy.

The rules get weirder

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 subject that is CLOSER to the verb.

The host or her guests are expected to leave the tip. The guests or the host is expected to leave the tip.
Tip: Just cover the confusing part of the sentence with your hand to simplify.

Doesnt & Dont

Doesnt = Does not.this is a singular verb form. Dont = Do notthis is a plural verb form.

The employee does not (doesnt) agree with the decision. The employees do not (dont) agree with the decision.
Tip: Remember that though your verb phrase is do like OR does like, make your subject agree with the first verb in the phrase: do OR does. This helping verb is where we add or remove the s for balance.

Exceptions to this rule occur with I and you. With these pronouns, do, do not, OR dont should be used.

So why all the Confusion?...

Words between the subject and the verb are what trip up many people.
Physics, along with calculus and chemistry, make up the Monster Trio of the sciences. Along with calculus and chemistry is a prepositional phrase between the subject Physics and the verb make. Ignore the prepositional phrase Physics makes up the Monster Trio.

Disruptive Word Groups

Do not be misled by disruptive word groups that come between the subject and the verb.
Neither of them were wearing a seatbelt.

Simply ignore the disruptive phrase, or reduce the sentence to simplest form.
Neither of them was wearing a seatbelt.

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. Every resident in three counties was affected by the storm.

Indefinite Pronouns Oh MY!

each, one, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are SINGULAR. Use a singular verb.

Each of these students is receiving a trophy. Everybody loves a winner. Neither of the teams has ever won a championship game. Either answer is correct. Someone appreciates your efforts.
Tip: All of these indefinite pronouns are in fact referring to a SINGLE (or potentially single) body or item. This is why they require a singular verb.

Nouns like civics, economics, AIDS, and news require singular verbs though the nouns themselves end in s and look plural. The news is on at six. Home economics involves more than sewing and cooking. AIDS is an epidemic.
Tip: These words imply a unified group, body or collection of information or studythis is why they are singular


When referring to an amount of money, use a singular verb. When referring to physical dollars themselves, use a plural verb.
One hundred dollars is, unfortunately, not a lot of money. Dollars are the national currency.

Time, Distance & Weight.

-Twenty miles is quite a distance to run daily. -Kilometers are a part of the metric system. -Five hundred pounds is heavy. -Pounds are an accurate measurement of weight.

Things With 2 Parts

Like scissors, pants, eye glasses, tweezers Plural Verbs.

The safety scissors are ironically razor sharp. Her pants are outrageously tight.

Here & There

Theres several brush fires in California. There are several brush fires in California. Heres my reasons for quitting. Here are my reasons for quitting.
Neither there nor here can serve as the subject of a sentence. When these words open a sentence, look for the subject to follow the verb.

Collective Nouns
Nouns that include or imply more than one person but act as a unified group. group, team, class, family, committee, herd, jury, faculty

If the persons in this collective noun are working together, or are being referred to as a whole, they take a singular verb.
The team runs during practice. My family goes to church.

Collective nouns call for plural verbs when the group members are not acting together, or when you are referring to individual effort within the group.
The jury has reached a verdict. The jury have left the courthouse in separate cars. The crew is making its plans. The crew are preparing the ship.
(This sentence refers to the individual efforts of each member)

The OWL at Purdue http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/599/ 01/ The Capital Community College Foundation http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/sv_a gr.htm Red River College of Arts and Sciences http://languagearts.pppst.com/subject-verbagreement.html

Gerunds as Subjects
Regretting your mistakes is often useless. Finding honest people seems difficult. Ignore the object of the gerund and make your verb agree with the singular gerunds regretting and finding.

Inclusion/Exclusion Rule
EXCLUSION use a singular verb: He is the only one of his classmates who drinks or smokes. INCLUSION use a plural verb: He is one of the millions of Americans who drink.

Consult a dictionary and/or follow your professors preference for Foreign Nouns as Subjects

SINGULAR PLURAL criterion criteria medium media datum data The media are not invited. No new data are available.