Subject-Verb Agreement

The subject of a sentence determines whether a singular or plural form of the verb is used.

The president with his boyish charm in the face of grueling questions from reporters is likely to win the straw poll.

The verb must be consistent with the subject, no matter how many words come between them,
according to the following rules:

  • With or, nor: singular subjects linked by or or nor take a singular verb;
    plural subjects linked by or or nor take a plural verb:
    • The president or his spokesperson  is going to meet with reporters.
    • The members of Congress or their spokespersons are going to meet with reporters.
  • Indefinite pronouns* generally use singular verbs :
    • Someone has my book.
    • Every man, woman, and child was searched.
    "Many" uses a singular verb when the subject is considered individually:
    • Many tourists were searched at the border.
    • Many a tourist was searched at the border.
    "All of" and  "some of" are considered quantifiers, so the following noun is considered the subject of the sentence
    (and not the object of a preposition):
    • All of the members were present. ("members" is plural)
    • All of the report was helpful. ("report" is singular)
  • Numerical quantities use singular verbs when considered as single units:
    • A hundred dollars is a lot to pay. ("a hundred miles" is a single unit)
    • The final ten miles of the race were grueling. ("the final ten miles" is not a single unit)
  • Titles and words named as words use singular verbs (and are generally italicized):
    • Insects is the textbook we will use in Biology this semester.
    • Emails is a new word.

* Indefinite pronouns: anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, every, everyone, everybody,
everything, neither, nobody, no one, one, somebody, someone,  something

Gain extra practice using the StudyMate activities below.

Set 1 

Last Updated: 8/29/13