The correspondence of a verb with its subject in person (first, second, or third) and number(singular or plural). The principle of subject-verb agreement applies to finite verbs in the present tense and, in a limited way, to the past forms of the verb to be (wasand were).

Singular indefinite pronoun subjects take singular verbs.

SINGULAR : each, either, neither, one, no one, nobody, nothing, anyone, anybody, anything, someone, somebody, something, everyone, everybody, everything.

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 pronoun subjects take plural verbs.

PLURAL:  several, few, both, many

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

  • Botharequalified for the job.
  • Manywentto the beach and got sunburned.
  • Fewknowwhat it really takes to get ahead.
  • Severalarealready on location.
  • Somesugar isrequired for taste. (sugar is uncountable so singular verb used)
  • Mostof the cookies were (cookies are countable so plural verb used)

Compound Subject

Subjects joined by and take a plural verb.


  • My aunt and my sister visit me every year.

When the subject words are joined by either . . . or, neither . . . nor, or not only . . . but , the verb agrees with the subject closest to it.


  • Either her brothers or her father has the money.
  • Neither her mother nor her sisters have the money.

Buried Subjects

When word groups separate the subject and the verb, locate the subject word to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb.


  • The tulips in the pot on the balcony need watering.
  • High levels of air pollution cause damage to the respiratory tract.
  • Everyone in our family, including my sister, has taken piano lessons.
  • Almost all of my friends who came last night brought gifts.

Phrases starting with the following words are normally not part of the subject: including, along with, together with, accompanied by, in addition to, as well as, except, with, no less than.

Clauses and Phrases as Subjects

When a whole clause or phrase is the subject, use a singular verb.


  • What I want to know is why I can’t try the test again.
  • To live happily seems like a worthwhile goal.

When who, which, and that are used as a subject, the verb agrees with the word that who, which, or that refers to.


  • They are the students who study hard. He is the student who studies the hardest.
  • The people in my class who are studying hard do a lot of extra reading.
  • The student in my class who is sitting in the corner does a lot of reading.

Collective Nouns

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

  • The committee meetshere every Thursday. (singular)
  • The crowd isgetting angry. (singular)
  • The juryhasfinally reached a decision. (singular)
  • The majority rulesmost of the time. (plural)
  • The staffhavegone their separate ways for the holidays. (plural)

Inverted Subjects

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with inverted subjects where the subject follows the verb:

  • There areseven clean platesin the dining room.
  • There ishairin my lasagna.
  • Over the rainbow fliesbird.
  • How arethe employeesenjoying the new building?
  • A good gift isgift card.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s