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English usage - Subject Verb agreement

Updated on January 25, 2013

Look at the following sentences:

· I am a student.

· You are a doctor.

· He is an engineer.

· They are teachers.

We have used the different forms of the verb be to match the different subjects (I, you, he and they) because a verb must agree with its subject both in number (singular or plural) and person (first, second or third person).

This is an easy rule to follow as long as there is no confusion in our minds about whether a subject is singular or plural. For example, the word news ends with an s like the word boys. However, it is treated as a singular noun. The word boys is treated as a plural noun.

Hence we have:

The news is true. (Singular verb)


The boys are coming. (Plural verb)


1. When the subject of a sentence is made up of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, we use a plural verb.

· Meena and her friends have gone to Mumbai.

· Mohan, his mother and father are in Chennai.

2. When two subjects are joined by or, either…or or

either… nor, the verb agrees with the subject nearest to it.

· Either you or your mother has to come.

· Either your mother or you have to come.

· Neither the children nor the teacher understands the lesson.

· Neither the teacher nor the children understand the lesson.

3. Be very sure about what your subject is! Do not let a phrase that comes between the subject and verb confuse you.

· One of the boxes is open.

What you are talking about here is one box; do not get confused by the word boxes and therefore put in a plural verb (‘One of the boxes are open’ - would be incorrect)

· The people who came to the wedding were happy.

(The subject is people and not wedding.)

· The book, though having many pictures, is very boring.

4. The words each, each one, everybody, everyone, nobody, somebody, someone and no one are singular nouns and therefore take a singular verb.

· Each of you is right. (not are right.)

· No one is at home.

· Everybody knows my house.


5. Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and politics require singular verbs.

· Civics is my favourite subject.

· Measles takes a long time to get over.


6. Measurements of money, time and distance usually require a singular verb.

· One hundred dollars is a lot of money.

· A week is a long time in politics.

7. Nouns such as scissors, tweezers, trousers, and shears take plural verbs since they are two parts of these things.

· The scissors are blunt.

· The trousers have to be ironed.

8. In sentences beginning with There, the verb agrees with the subject that follows it.

· There is a tree in our house.

· There are many trees in our house.

9. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person. However, if we are thinking of them as a single unit, then they are considered singular and take a singular verb.

· The team is sure to win.

· The committee has to make the final decision.

· The family has gone on vacation.

· The government helps the people.

When we think of these collective nouns as a number of individuals in a group, then we use the plural noun.

· My family have never been able to agree on this subject.

· The audience are requested to remain silent.

10. The nouns people, police and cattle always take the plural verb.

· The people are bored.

· The police are questioning the criminals.

· The cattle run whenever they see a car.


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    • profile image

      kristine jewel 

      9 years ago

      ase the singular verb


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