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Subject-Verb Agreement Rules

Updated on November 15, 2023

Ensuring Grammatical Harmony in Sentences #

Subject-verb agreement is a cornerstone of grammatically correct English sentences. Languagehood’s guide on subject-verb agreement rules is intended to help learners understand and apply these rules, ensuring that subjects and verbs match in number and person for clear and accurate communication.

Basic Rules of Subject-Verb Agreement #

  1. Singular subjects take singular verbs, and plural subjects take plural verbs.
    • “The cat runs across the street.”
    • “The cats run across the street.”
  2. Two or more subjects joined by ‘and’ usually require a plural verb.
    • “My friend and mentor have been supportive.”
  3. When two subjects are joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’, the verb agrees with the nearer subject.
    • “Either the manager or the employees decide on the schedule.”
  4. Indefinite pronouns such as someone, everybody, everyone, nobody typically take a singular verb.
    • “Everyone has a chance to win.”
  5. Collective nouns may take a singular or plural verb depending on whether the group is seen as a whole or as individual members.
    • “The team is winning.” (as a unit)
    • “The team are wearing their new uniforms.” (as individuals)
  6. Titles of works, company names, and other singular nouns take a singular verb.
    • “The New York Times is a renowned newspaper.”
  7. Fractions and percentages take a singular or plural verb based on the noun that follows.
    • “Half of the cake has been eaten.”
    • “Fifty percent of the students have voted.”

Special Cases and Exceptions #

  • With expressions like ‘a number of’, the verb is plural, but with ‘the number of’, it’s singular.
    • “A number of people are waiting.”
    • “The number of people is growing.”
  • Inverted sentences, where the subject follows the verb, especially in questions, still need agreement.
    • “Are the players ready for the match?”

Common Mistakes to Avoid #

  • Don’t be confused by phrases that come between the subject and the verb; the verb must agree with the subject, not with these intervening phrases.
    • “The bouquet of flowers is on the table.”
  • Subjects and verbs must agree even when clauses or phrases separate them.
    • “The cat, along with the two dogs, runs in the yard.”

Examples for Practice #

  • “The list of items is on the desk.”
  • “There are several reasons for this decision.”

Understanding and applying subject-verb agreement rules is vital for learners to write and speak English correctly. This guide from Languagehood provides the fundamental principles and examples to ensure that learners can construct sentences with the correct subject-verb agreement.

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