Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement
• Subject: the main person, animal, object, or “thing”
in the sentence
▫ Some subjects are singular and some are plural
• Verb: the action or state of being in the sentence
▫ Just like subjects, some verbs are singular and some
are plural
▫ *Note: most singular verbs have an ‘s’ on the end,
while plural verbs don’t
▫ Singular Examples: He is, She shouts, Mom gives, etc.
▫ Plural examples: They are, we go, Jack and Jill run
Subject-Verb Agreement
• Subjects and verbs must agree in number.
• That means a singular subject must take a
singular verb while a plural subject must take a
plural verb.
• Examples:
The motor is running.
The motors are running.
The girl has been delayed.
The girls have been delayed.
Subject-Verb Agreement
• Circle the appropriate verb, then label the
subject and verb as singular or plural.
1. This museum (has, have) been called the best
of all in New York City. ____________
2. The enormous building (cover, covers) three
blocks. ____________
3. The different showrooms (deal, deals) with
various art forms. ____________
4. Some tours (is, are) conducted by actual
artists. ____________
Problems with Subject-Verb Agreement
• Sometimes there may be a phrase between the
subject and the verb.
Example: The crystal pitcher, oozing water
droplets, was cracked along the base.
• When this happens, you must ignore the phrase
and make sure the subject and verb match in
• Does this make sense?
▫ The crystal pitcher was cracked along the base.
Problems with Subject-Verb Agreement
• Remember prepositional phrases?
• What did I tell you about subjects and
prepositional phrases?
▫ A prepositional phrase can never contain a
• Prepositional phrases often come between a
subject and its verb. You must ignore the
prepositional phrase to make sure the subject
and verb match in number!
Example: Books along the far wall of the library
(is, are) up for sale.
Problems with Subject-Verb Agreement
• Underline the subject, cross out the interrupting
phrase, then choose the correct verb.
1. A tidal wave, despite its name (is, are) not caused
by the tides.
2. A network of warning signals (alert, alerts) people
in coastal areas of an approaching tidal wave.
3. The tremendous force of tidal waves sometimes
(causes, cause) great destruction.
4. Walls of earth and stone along the shore (is, are)
often too weak to protect coastal villages.
More Problems with S-V Agreement
• An indefinite pronoun is a word that does not refer to
anyone or anything specific.
• Examples: anybody, anything, everyone, someone,
something, nobody, nothing, no one, etc.
• Some indefinite pronouns are singular, some are plural
▫ Singular Example: Neither of the movies was funny.
▫ Plural Example: Many of our neighbors keep dogs as pets.
• There’s always an exception…
• Sometimes you must use the prepositional phrase to
determine if the indefinite pronoun is singular or
▫ Example: All of the fruit is ripe.
More Problems with S-V Agreement
• Use the prepositional phrase to decide if the
pronoun needs a singular or plural verb.
All of my cousins (live, lives) in New Hampshire.
All of my family (live, lives) in New Hampshire.
Some of the apples (has, have) been sold.
Some of the harvest (has, have) been sold.
Most of the neighborhood (is, are) coming to the
6. Most of the neighbors (is, are) coming to the
More Problems with S-V Agreement
It Depends…
No body
No one
More Problems with S-V Agreement
• Find the indefinite pronoun, decide if it is singular
or plural, and choose the correct verb to match the
1. Each of the brothers (study, studies) biology.
2. No one on either team (was, were) ever in a playoff
3. Anybody with binoculars (are, is) popular at a
large stadium.
4. Both dogs and cats (enjoy, enjoys) treats.
5. None of the dinner (were, was) burnt.
6. None of the players (were, was) hurt in the game.
7. Many people (wish, wishes) to win the lottery!
Even More Problems with S-V Agreement!
• But this one is relatively easy…
• Compound subjects (joined with ‘and’) usually take
a plural verb.
▫ Our dog and cat get baths in the summer.
▫ Jack and Jill ran up the hill.
• Singular subjects joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’ take a
singular verb.
▫ Neither the professor nor his assistant arrived to class
on time.
• AND, if you have a singular subject and a plural
subject joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor,’ use the subject closest
to the verb to determine whether it is singular or
▫ A book or flowers usually make an appropriate gift.
▫ Flowers or a book usually makes an appropriate gift.
Even More Problems with S-V Agreement!
• Choose the correct verb for each sentence below.
1. Neither pens nor pencils (is, are) needed to
mark the ballots.
2. Either my aunt or my uncle (is, are) going to
drive us.
3. That table or this chair (was, were) handmade
in Portugal.
4. (Has, Have) the sandwiches or other
refreshments been served yet?
5. Either Japanese poetry or Greek myths (is, are)
going to be the focus of my essay.
Seriously? More S-V Agreement Problems?
• Yes, there are more. Here are the shortened versions:
• Collective nouns (audience, team, collection) take a
singular or plural verb depending on the meaning/use of
the subject in the sentence.
▫ The class has decided to put on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
▫ The class were divided on their opinions of who should play
the lead role.
• Sometimes the verb comes first in the sentence. Make
sure the subject and verb still match in number.
▫ In the pond swim large goldfish.
▫ Were you arriving late, too?
▫ There are our new neighbors.

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