Subject Verb Agreement

The main principle is : Singular subjects need singular verbs : plural subjects need ; plural subjects need plural verbs. Some basic rules:

1. When subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, we use a plural verb.
 He and his friends are at the fair.
 This rule is not follow when two nouns refer to the same object.
 The wicket keeper and Captain was given the man of the match award.

2. When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, we use a singular verb.
 e.g. The paper or the pencil is in the desk.

3. When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer to the verb.
 e.g. Shivin or his friends run every day.
    His friends or Shivin runs every day.

4. Doesn’t is contraction of does not and should be used only with a singular subject. Don’t is a contraction of do not and should be used only with a plural subject. The exception to this rule appears in the case of the first person and second person pronouns I and you. With these pronouns the contraction don’t should be used.
 e.g.  She doesn’t like it.
    They don’t like it.

5. A phrase between the subject and the verb should not be misleading, the verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun in the phrase.
 e.g. The captain, as well as his players, is anxious.
    The book, in parts, is boring.
    The building, with all its contents, is insured.

6. Each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, nobody, somebody, some one and no one are singular and require a singular verb.
 e.g. Each of these books is good.
    Everybody knows him.
    Either is correct.

7. Nouns such as civics, mathematics, rupees and news require singular verbs.
 e.g. The news is on at eight.
 When talking about an amount of money, it requires a singular verb, but when referring to the rupees themselves, a plural verb is required.
 e.g. Five hundred rupees is a lot of money.
    Rupees are often used instead or Rupiahs in Nepal.

8. Nouns such as scissors, trousers, shears and shorts require plural verbs.
 e.g. These shears are dull.
    These shorts are made of cotton.

9. In sentences beginning with there is, there are, the subject follows the verb. Since there is not the subject, the verb agrees with what follows.
 e.g. There are many questions
    There is a question.

10. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person but are considered singular and take a singular verb, such as : group, team, committee, class and family.
 e.g. The family has a long history of writers.
    The committee has prepared the agenda.

11. With, together with, including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well do not change the number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is too.
 e.g. The Chairman, including his team, is travelling to China.
    The boys, together with their friends, are going for a picnic.

12. The relative pronouns (who, whom, which, and that) are either singular or plural, depending on the words they refer to.
 e.g. The sales manager is good researcher who spends a great amount of time surfing the Web for information. 
    Subject : The sales manager  Verbs: is, spends

13. A few nouns can be either plural or singular, depending on whether they mean a group or Separate individuals. These words are rarely used as plurals in modern writing.
 e.g. 1.  The jury has decided unanimously.
     Subject: jury   Verb: is 
    2.  The jury are having an argument. 
     Subject: jury   Verb: are having

14. Do not be misled by a phrase that comes between the subject and the verb. The agrees with the
 subject, not with a noun or pronoun in the phrase.
 e.g. One of the boxes is open.
    The people who listen to music are few.

15. Two singular subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor require a singular verb as in Rule 1.
 e.g. Neither John nor Abraham is available.
    Either Bipasha or neelam is helping today with stage decoration.

16. When/is one of the two subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor, put it second and follow it with the singular verb am.
 e.g. Neither she nor I am going to the festival 

17. With words that indicate portions-percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, and so forth – look at the noun in your ‘of phrase (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular of plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.
 e.g. 1. Fifty percent of the pie has disappeared. (Pie is the object of the preposition of.)
    2. Fifty percent of the pies have disappeared.
    3. One-third of the city is unemployed.
    4. One-third of the people are unemployed.

 NOTE: Hyphenate all spelled-out fractions.
    5. All of the pie is gone.
    6. All of the pies are gone.
    7. Some of the pie is missing.
    8. Some of the pies are missing.

18. Use a singular verb with sums of money or periods of time.
 e.g. Ten dollars is a high price to pay.
    Five years is the maximum sentence for that offense.

Identifying the subject

Word groups often come between the subject and the verb. These word groups may contain a noun that at first appears to be the subject. Identify the word group between the subject and the verb in order to isolate the noun.
 e.g. The girl plays all day. (singular subject)
 e.g. The slaughter of pandas for their pelts have caused panda population to decline Drastically.  (Incorrect)
 The slaughter of pandas for their pelts has caused the panda population to decline drastically.  (Correct)

Thus, the subject is slaughter and not pandas or pelts.

Phrases beginning with the prepositions as well as, in addition to, accompanied by, and along with, do not make a singular subject plural.
 e.g. The Chief Minister, as well as his principal secretary, was shot.
 e.g. If a customer buys a burger, he or she has to pay service tax. (correct)
  If a customer buys a burger, they have to buy a parking ticket. (incorrect)

Directions: Find out the error, if any in questions given in each practice set. If there is no error, the answer is (e), i.e No error (ignore the errors of punctuation, if any.)

1. A few kilometers beyond (a) /that villa was seen two aliens (b )/along with (c)/ a few Americans and Russian scientists (d)/  No error (e).

2. It is well known fact that (a)/the upper middle class have no soft (b)/ corner for the poor and the oppressed who are the (c)/real victims of this social system (d)/ No error (e).

3. Sheetal as well as (a)/ some of her friends (b)/have fallen in love with a hunky fellow, who (c)/ is the eldest son of an I.A.S. officer (d)/ No error (e).

4. More than one successful candidate of this institute (a)/have taken the interview for one (b)/of the most popular dailies (c)/being published from Los Angels (d)/ No error (e).

5. More than one book on life style (a)/ and motivation by this writer (b)/have been published so far and (c)/all are selling like a hot cake (d)/ No error (e).

6. Many a man along with (a)/a few friends of mine are going (b)/to DevGhar to offer flowers and (c)/milk to Lord Shiva (d)/ No error (e).

7. Many an employee of this company (a)/ are supposed to be transferred (b)/ to some other company (c)/ of the same category because of recession (d)/ No error (e).

8. The political leader as well as (a)/ his retinues are going on a hunger (b)/ Strike to protest this (c)/ unnecessary price hike (d)/ No error (e).

9. Although this book as well as those (a)/ books of yours are similar (b)/ in many ways, mine has (c)/ an edge over many a book of yours (d)/ No error (e).

10. The prime minister along with his (a)/ attendants are coming tomorrow (b)/ to address the sensational (c)/ and controversial issues of terrorism (d)/ No error (e).


1. b
2. b
3. c
4. b
5. c
6. b
7. a
8. b
9. b
10. b