Making Subjects and Verbs Agree

Relationship of the Subject with the Predicate in a Sentence


Selection of the verb according to the nature of the subject is known as ‘Agreement’. A singular subject requires a singular verb. A plural subject requires a plural verb. E.g. I am in the classroom. We/ You/ They are in the classroom. He/ She/ It is in the classroom.

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Rule 1

When a sentence begins with a word like “There”, the verb agrees with the real subject after the verb “be” e.g. There is a book on the table. There are ten books on the table.

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Rule 2

When the subject is 2 or more nouns joined by ‘and’ ,it is treated as a plural.e.g. Gopal & Hari were going by bus.

But if the 2 nouns are closely related, it is treated as a singular .e.g. Bread and butter is my favourite breakfast.

Rule 3

The words: each, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, someone and no one are singular. e.g. Each of the members was given a gift. Everyone likes Shweta. Somebody is coming this way. No one likes to be scolded. Every tree is known by its fruit.

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Rule 4
 Some nouns ending in ‘s’ look as if they are in plural but as a subject take singular verbs e.g.  Mathematics is my favourite subject.  The News is on at six p.m.  Measles is an infectious disease.

Rule 5
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In Mathematical statements, ‘is’ is generally used. E.g. 2+2 is 4 Rs. 900/- is too much for this dress. ‘The Number’ is usually treated as singular while ‘A Number’ is treated as plural. E.g.: The number of trainees is 25. A number of boys were playing on the field.

Rule 6

Some Nouns with a singular form may be treated either as singular or plural e.g. - The Council has (have) postponed its/their decision. Other words in this category are : audience, association, committee, crowd, family, generation, group, team, government etc. - My family has 5 members. - My family have never agreed on anything. ( In formal writing it is more common to use a singular verb)

Rule 7

Some Nouns are usually plural and take a plural verb e.g. scissors, earrings, goods ,stairs, congratulations, police, people, staff, trousers, etc. - The scissors are very sharp. - Congratulations are in order. - The police are patrolling the area.

Rule 8

With phrases such as, ‘A majority of, A lot of, Some of, Plenty of ‘ along with a plural noun, a plural verb is used.e.g. - A majority of the members were in favour of the motion. - Some of the students do not attend classes. - A lot of people were seen at the reception.

Rule 9

After ‘ Percent’ or % we use a singular verb. E.g. - Around 10 % of the forest is destroyed every year. However, in phrases such as Percent of + a plural noun ‘ a plural verb is used. E.g. - 50% of the hoses need repairs.

A word of caution

Do not be misled by phrases that come between the subject and the verb. The verb agrees with the subject and not the Noun or Pronoun in the phrase.e.g. - The woman, with all her dogs, walks down my street. - The prime Minister, along with his family members , is holidaying in Simla. - One of the boxes is open.

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