9 Agreement - Warren County Schools

There are two types of agreement: subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent
Subject-verb agreement—
Subjects and verbs must agree in number and person. Number refers to singular or plural; person refers
to first, second, or third.
Singular subjects require singular verbs; plural subjects require plural verbs.
First person is when one refers to oneself:
Second person refers to the one who is being spoken to:
Third person refers to the person or thing being talked about:
I have a headache.
We are here.
You have a headache.
John has a headache.
S-V agreement usually involves one letter: s (or es for words already ending is s).
I saw John kiss Kelly.
John kisses many people.
The firefly glows.
The fireflies glow.
Singular subject, singular verb
Plural subject, plural verb
Here is a handy chart that helps explain the concept:
I matter / I owe
you matter / you owe
he/she/it matters / John owes
we matter / we owe
you matter / you owe
they matter / John and Betty owe
Here’s the tricky part: words that come between the subject and verb or verb phrase in a
sentence—such as non-restrictive or restrictive elements, dependent clauses, and prepositional
phrases—are ignored when determining agreement. Consider the following sentences:
NOTE: When there are intervening words between the subject and verb, it helps beginning students to
highlight or underline the main clause when one is confused about which version of a verb to use!
A student, through training, practice, and diligence, learns how language works.
The main clause is “A student learns how language works.” The additional information
in the sentence is NOT part of the main clause; therefore, it is not considered when
determining the correct verb usage.
Winners of the state contest go to the national finals.
The natural tendency is to say “contest goes.” Don’t be fooled by the prepositional
phrase separating the subject from the verb. “Winners” is the subject, not contest,
because “of the state contest” is a prepositional phrase.
One of the problems is funding.
Even though one’s first instinct might be to say “problems are,” remember: “of the
problem” is a prepositional phrase, which is never a subject. One is the subject, not
Compound subjects and verb agreement—
Compound subjects are plural because more than one noun is involved; one uses the plural verb form.
John and Kelly laugh a lot.
John and Kelly laughs a lot.
Since two people laugh a lot, use the plural verb
John and Kelly, two adorable students I have known for many years, laugh a lot.
Remember: don’t be distracted by words separating the subject and verb!!!
Subjects separated by “or” and agreement—
Subjects separated by or use a singular verb (regardless of how wrong it might sound in your head)
because “or” indicates that only ONE thing is involved—this thing OR that thing, not both!
John or Kelly laughs a lot.
Only ONE of them laughs a lot. One is singular;
therefore, a singular verb is required.
John or Kelly laugh a lot.
“Laugh” is a plural verb, as if to say, “They laugh a lot.”
The sentence does not indicate that TWO people are
doing anything—only ONE is.
Pronoun-Antecedent agreement—
Just like verbs, P-A agreement requires that pronouns match their antecedents in number and person.
Consider the following sentences:
The firefly glows when it emerges from its nest at night.
Fireflies glow when they emerge from their nest at night.
Singular pronoun subjects—
If you don’t learn anything else about pronouns, learn this. One common mistake many students make is
when they use singular pronoun subjects, such as everyone, someone, somebody, or everybody, with a
plural verb. Those words might sound plural, but THEY ARE NOT. These words are completely and
unequivocally SINGULAR. Consider these sentences:
everyone should stand up for their natural rights.
everyone should stand up for one’s natural rights.
everyone should stand up for his natural rights.
everyone should stand up for her natural rights.
everyone should stand up for his or her natural rights.
NO: No one should have to give up their natural rights.
no one should have to give up one’s natural rights.
no one should have to give up his natural rights.
no one should have to give up her natural rights.
no one should have to give up his or her natural rights.
It’s a hard habit to break, but NEVER
plural, not singular.
use “their” with a singular pronoun subject. Their is
Consider everyone as meaning “every one person”; anyone follows the same guidelines: “any one
person.” This might help you remember it’s singular.
Plural pronoun subjects (few, both, many, several, etc.) work opposite as above because these
pronouns refer to more than one.
Both of the people in the back gave up his / her / one’s seat in the front.
Both of the people in the back gave up their seats in the front.
All and Some—
These two indefinite pronouns take special consideration. Whether they are singular or plural depends
on whether or not the noun they refer to is or is not countable. Consider the following:
All of the water is missing.
Some of the water is missing.
All of the water molecules are missing. Some of the water molecules are missing.
Ask yourself this: can you “count” water? Can you count molecules? Since water is not countable, it is
singular—how many water is in the Pacific Ocean? Since molecules are countable, it is plural—there are
roughly 2.007 x 10^22 water molecules in one drop of water. See the difference?
What verb to use with “None”—
None is a weird word—zero is neither singular nor plural because, well, none is nothing. Apples can be
singular (I have one apple); they can even be plural (I have many apples), but if I have no apples
whatsoever, then I can’t really call it singular or plural.
There are two schools of thought on this concept: the old-school people will tell you that “none” means
“not one,” which would indicate a singular construction: “None of the streams is dirty.” If we recognize
this as correct, we use “is” with “none” because “is” is the singular form of the verb.
The other philosophy is to let the number of “none” depend on whether it is referring to a singular or plural
noun in the sentence: “None of the streams are dirty.” The idea here is that since the sentence is
referring to more than one stream, one should use the plural form of the verb.
My best advice is to decide on a method and stick with it, or, alternatively, ask your teacher or
professor which method she considers correct, and go with that. Here are a few examples.
None of the plants are alive.
Since “plants” is what “none” refers to in this sentence, you might
use the plural “are” in lieu of the singular “is” unless your teacher
or professor prefers the other method.
When I try to find a fork, none is there. Since “none” refers to a singular thing (fork, not forks) use the
singular verb “is” instead of the plural “are.” There is no
argument here: the sentence does NOT say “forks”; it says
FORK, which is singular—so pay close attention!
Circle the correct verb in each sentence. Remember to identify the subjects and to discount any
information between the subject and the verb.
1) One of our streams is / are polluted.
2) None of our streams is / are polluted.
3) Some of the healthier dogs is going / are going to be sold next week.
4) Some of the poisonous vapor is / are still present in the room, so wear your gas mask.
5) Dogs bark whenever it / they sense a presence that may be threatening to its / their owners.
6) Anyone with an interest in roller derbies has / have heard that it / they can be dangerous.
7) Many consider / considers Jim McMahon to be an awesome former quarterback for the Bears.
8) Everyone who is anyone loves their / his Chicago Bears!
9) Anybody wanting to wear a cap and gown at graduation must have their / her measurements
10) The senior class nervously await / awaits final exams.
*NOTE: in #9, the subject is a collective noun, a term given to nouns that singularly refer to a
group of people, places, or things. Collective nouns are always singular in number—never
plural—because they refer to ONE thing as a unit regardless of the number of members in the unit.
An example is the Federal Bureau of Investigation: there are many employees in the F.B.I., but we
refer to the organization itself as ONE thing.
11) The senior class were fitted / was fitted with caps and gowns last Friday.
12) John, one of my best friends, are / is going to the game tonight.
13) Mark or Don are going / is going with me tomorrow.
14) Jack and Dianne are coming / is coming with me to the mall.
15) Neither of the two toasters is / are working.
Note: be extra careful on #15! Neither follows the same rules as “or.” We might think the sentence
refers to two things; however, in actuality, it refers to one thing or the other—not both things at
16) Theories of various kinds explain / explains the many strange occurrences in space.
17) Even today, a couple demonstrates / demonstrate love by exchanging red roses.
18) Everyone should stand up for their / his rights.
19) Bobby, Jimbo, Donnie, or Billy want / wants to go to prom with Sara.
20) The Central Intelligence Agency is / are coming to dinner tonight