The Grammar Business
Part Three
5. Subject Verb Agreement
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
The form of the verb
• may change depending on the subject
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
So if the verb is
SEE and the
subject is SHE 
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• She sees him.
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
But if the verb is
SEE and the
subject is
THEY 
• They see him.
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
And if the verb is
SEE and the
subject is SHE 
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• She has seen
him.
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
But if the verb is
• They have seen
him.
SEE and the
subject is THEY

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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
Some subjects are
• singular (only
one)
• She is seeing
him.
• Others are plural
(more than one)
• They are seeing
him.
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
A common error is
• to get subject-verb
agreement wrong
• small children often
do this
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• My mummy and
daddy is very cross.
• I lives in a big, big
house.
• They hasn’t got as
much money as me
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
In some cases big people get it
wrong too
• For example, what’s
wrong with 
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“I have three friends
and each of them
are completely
trustworthy.”
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
The answer is
• ‘Each’ is singular - it
means literally ‘each
one’ and so the
sentence should
read 
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“I have three friends
and each of them
is completely
trustworthy.”
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
And what about
• Using ‘both’ 
“I have two friends
and both of them
is completely
trustworthy.”
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
Yes, that was wrong!
• ‘Both’ is plural, so
the sentence should
read 
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“I have two friends
and both of them
are completely
trustworthy.”
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
The word Neither can cause similar
problems
• Neither means
‘neither one’ - so it’s
singular
• And the following
sentence is
correct 
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Neither of them is
very happy.
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
A difficulty is also caused by
• Group nouns like 
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•
•
•
•
•
•
•
The Government
The Labour Party
The group
The army
The team
The family
The orchestra
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
Group nouns
• can be regarded as
either singular or
plural
• both of the following
are correct 
• [or either one of
them is correct] 
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• The Government
has announced a
new tax on students.
• The Government
have announced a
new tax on students.
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
When using group nouns
• It is important to be consistent
• If you decide the Government is plural,
stick to that idea and refer to ‘their’
decisions
• If you decide the Government is
singular, refer to ‘its’ decisions
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
Pair nouns are different
• A pair noun is a noun for one thing
made of two parts which are the same
• For example: jeans, scissors, glasses,
binoculars
• A pair noun is plural
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
So you say
• My jeans are dirty their knees are quite
black
• My jeans is dirty their knees are quite
black
• My scissors are
missing
• and NOT 
• My scissors is
missing
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
And you need to be careful with
• people
• police
• cattle

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People, police and
cattle are all nouns
with a plural
meaning and they
need a plural verb
The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
And so you have to say
• The police have arrested one woman
and they will question her later.
• The cattle are lowing and their feet are
very painful.
• People have flocked to the country in
hordes, bringing their families with
them.
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College
Try a self-testing exercise to check
your confidence on this
• You’ll find one on Handout Four.
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The Grammar Business © 2001 Glenrothes College