In all the years that I have been teaching, the one thing I have seen so much is that many people; people earning their degrees or people with dregrees all seem to have problems with this topic. So here I will try to help anyone and everyone with this. I only can hope I get it right.

                           Making Subjects and Verbs Agree

I got a hold of some bad pork chops the other day, and they didn't agree with me. Stomach aches aren't very pleasant. Don't you agree?

We all know these meanings of "agree," but when we talk about subject-verb agreement, we're talking about something different: matching subjects and verbs according to number. That is, when you have a singular subject, you have to match it with a singular verb form: The boy plays. When you have a plural subject, you must have a plural verb form: The boys play.

In short, simple sentences, you should have no problem with agreement. You can hear the problem: The boys plays. When it's wrong , it just sounds funny. However, there are four potential problem spots that you need to watch carefully:

  • stuff in between the subject and verb
  • reversed sentence order
  • "-body," "-one," and "-thing" words
  • "who," "which," and "that"


Making Subjects and Verbs Agree

1. When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.

2. When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.

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 the verb.

4. Doesn't is a 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.

5. Do not be misled by a phrase that comes between the subject and the verb. The verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun in the phrase.



6. The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb.


7. Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and news require singular verbs.


Note: the word dollars is a special case. When talking about an amount of money, it requires a singular verb, but when referring to the dollars themselves, a plural verb is required.

8. Nouns such as scissors, tweezers, trousers, and shears require plural verbs. (There are two parts to these things.)

9. In sentences beginning with there is or there are, the subject follows the verb. Since there is not the subject, the verb agrees with what follows.

10. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person but that are considered singular and take a singular verb, such as: group, team, committee, class, and family.

In very few cases, the plural verb is used if the individuals in the group are thought of and specifically referred to.



11. Expressions such as 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.


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