A5 – Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement
The major cause of subject-verb agreement error is that writers cannot identify the simple subject of a clause; if they do, they
find it hard to decide whether it is a plural or a singular subject.
*Note: In some English dialects S-V agreement may vary. For writing assignments it is best to use the standard S-V format.
1. Nouns or pronouns may intervene between the subject and the verb. In such cases it is important to note which what the
verb refers to
Examples: Watermelons sold by the roadside usually taste good.
Taxes, along with unemployment, influence votes.
2. Subjects joined by and are usually plural.
Examples: Her typewriter and my radio were stolen.
The doctor and the minister have much in common.*
*Exception to the rule: Compound subjects take singular verbs because the subject denotes one person or single unit.
Example: The company is having a good day.
3. Singular subjects joined by or and nor usually take singular verbs.
Examples: Paula or her secretary answers the phone on Saturday.
Either the major or the governor is the keynote speaker.
Likewise plural subjects joined by or, either, nor, neither take plural verbs.
Example: Neither the doctors nor the lawyers are meeting today.
If one subject is singular and one is plural, the verb agrees with the nearest subject.
Examples: Either Sam or his sisters are coming.
Either my parents or my sister is on the phone.
4. Sometimes the verb might come before the noun (inverted word order)
Examples: There are no poisonous snakes in the area.
There remains an unanswered question.
5. Relative pronoun (who, which, that) used as a subject takes singular or plural verb according to its antecedent.
Examples: It is the pharmacist who often suggests a new brand.
This is the only one of the local papers that prints a daily horoscope.
This is one of the newspapers that print a large type.
6. When used as subjects, words like each, either, neither, one, everybody, and anyone take singular verbs.
Examples: Neither likes the friends of the other.
Everybody in the office has tickets.
7. Collective nouns and pronouns denoting fixed quantity take singular verb.
Examples: The majority has made its decision.
The number of board members is very small.
8. Linking verbs agree with subjects not with complements.
Examples: Excessive absences were the reason for his failure.
The reason for his failure was excessive absences.
9. Nouns plural in form but singular in meaning take singular verbs.
Example: Darts is a game played often.
10. The title of a singular work spoken of as a word, even when in plural form, takes singular verb.
Example: "Toys" is one of my favorite poems.
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