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)
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.
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 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)
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 isa hairin my lasagna.
- Over the rainbow fliesa bird.
- How arethe employeesenjoying the new building?
- A good gift isa gift card.