Avoid Red Pen Reviews: 9 Subject-Verb Agreement Rules

Compound Subjects

Compound subjects (two subjects in the same sentence) usually take a plural verb, unless the combination is treated as singular in popular usage or the two subjects refer to the same thing or person. Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with compound subjects:

  • Sugar and flour are needed for the recipe.
  • Neither my dad nor my brothers know how to ski.
  • Pepperoni and cheese are great on a pizza.
  • Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional meal in Ireland. (popular usage)
  • The creator and producer is arriving soon. (both refer to same person)

When using “or” or “nor” in a compound subject containing a singular and plural subject, the verb agrees with the closest subject. Examples of compound subjects using or, neither-nor, or either-or include:

  • My mom or dad is coming to the play. (singular)
  • Neither gray nor white is my favorite color. (singular)
  • Either Grandpa or my sisters are going to the park. (closest subject is plural)
  • Either my sisters or Grandpa is going to the park. (closest subject is singular)
  • Neither she nor I am going to college. (closest subject is singular)

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with singular indefinite pronouns:

  • Each gets a trophy for playing.
  • Somebody will pay for this.
  • Anybody is more fun than you.
  • Something is very wrong here.
  • Everybody enjoys a good book.
  • Nothing has been determined as of yet.

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with plural indefinite pronouns:

  • Both are qualified for the job.
  • Many went to the beach and got sunburned.
  • Few know what it really takes to get ahead.
  • Several are already on location.
  • Some sugar is required for taste. (sugar is uncountable so singular verb used)
  • Most of the cookies were eaten. (cookies are countable so plural verb used)

Midsentence Phrase or Clause

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with a phrase or clause between the subject and verb:

  • theory of physics ascertains that a body in motion stays in motion.
  • virus in all the company’s computers is a real threat to security.
  • The causes of this prevalent disease are bad diet and lack of exercise.
  • The couch and chair I got at the store look really nice in here.
  • The members of the choir are very happy with the performance. Go to the site and find out more

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns can be singular or plural depending on meaning. Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with collective nouns:

Subject–Verb Agreement Rules

Subjects and verbs must be agreed upon in order.

If the subject is a single verb, then the verb must also be a single verb.
Example: She writes every day.
Exception: If you use the singular number “they”, use the plural verb forms.
Example: She writes every day: The participant expressed satisfaction with his work. They currently hold a leadership position in the organization.

If the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.
Example: A participant has expressed satisfaction with their work: They write every day.

Sometimes, however, it seems a little more complicated.

If the subject of the sentence consists of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by a plural verb.
Example: A doctoral student and committee members write every day.

Example: A doctoral student and committee members write every day: The percentage of employees who called due to illness and the number of employees who left their job within 2 years reflect the level of job satisfaction.

When there is one subject and several verbs, the verbs in the sentence must be consistent with the subject.
Example: Interviews are one way of collecting data and allow researchers to better understand the participants.

Example: Interviews are one way to collect data and allow researchers to better understand the participants: Assumption is something that is generally accepted as truth and is an important consideration when conducting doctoral research.

When a phrase arises between a subject and a verb, remember that the verb is still consistent with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun in the phrase following the subject of the sentence.
Example: The student, like the committee members, is excited.

Example: The student, like the committee members, is excited: A student with all master’s degrees is very motivated.

Example: A student with all master’s degrees is very motivated: The strategies that the teacher uses to encourage participation in the classroom include using small groups and clarifying expectations.

Example: The focus of the interview was on nine targeted participants.

When two or more nouns or pronouns are joined by the letters “or” or “ni”, use a single verb.
Example: The interview focused on nine or more nouns or pronouns combined by the letters “or” or “ni”: The Chair or Chief Executive Officer endorses the proposal before considering it.

If the compound object contains both a singular and plural noun or pronoun connected by the words “or” or “ni”, the verb must agree with the part of the object closest to the verb. This is also called the proximity rule.
Example: A pupil or committee member writes every day.

Example: A committee member or student writes every day.

The words and phrases “each”, “each”, “either”, “neither”, “all”, “all”, “anybody”, “nobody”, “anybody”, “anybody”, “anybody”, “anybody” and “nobody” are single and require a single verb.
Example: Each of the participants was ready for recording.

Example: None of the alternative hypotheses were accepted.

Example: None of the alternative hypotheses were accepted: I will offer a $5 gift card to everyone involved in the study.

Example: I would offer a gift card for $5 to everyone involved: I would offer a $5 gift card to everyone involved in the study: No one could meet me at a time that was convenient for me.

Nouns other than nouns accept a single verb.
Example: Education is the key to success.

Example: Education is key to success: Diabetes affects many people around the world.

Example: Diabetes affects many people around the world: Information from business owners was important for inclusion in the study.

Example: Information from business owners was important for inclusion in a study: The study I found on this topic was limited.

Some considered nouns in English, such as earnings, goods, odds, environment, revenue, content, and values, have only the plural and accept the plural.
Example: This quarter’s income is higher than expected.

Example: The income for this quarter exceeds expectations: Revenue from sales goes to the maintenance of the homeless in the city.

Example: Goods made locally have the advantage of shorter supply chains.

In sentences that begin with the words “is” or “is”, the subject follows the verb. Since “is” is not a subject, the verb is consistent with what follows the verb.
Example: Administrative support is not significant.

Example: Administrative support is insignificant: There are many factors that affect the teacher’s retention.

Nouns together are words that mean more than one person, but are considered to be the only one and accept a single verb. Some examples: “group”, “team”, “committee”, “family” and “class”.
Example: A group meets every week.

Example: A group meets every week: The committee agrees on the quality of the spelling.

However, the plural is used if the focus is on the individual members of the group. This is much less common.

Example: The plural is used when the focus is on the individual members: A committee participates in various volunteer activities in a private life.

Subjects and verbs must be agreed upon in order.

If the subject is a single one, then the verb must also be a single verb.
Example: She writes every day.
Exception: If you use the singular “they”, use plural verb forms.
Example: She writes every day: A participant expressed satisfaction with his work.