Tutoring and Testing Center
SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT A subject is a noun or pronoun.
A verb is the action performed by the subject.
Matching Subjects with Verbs Verbs must agree with subjects in number and in person (1st/2nd/3rd). EXAMPLE: The dog drinks his water every day. “Dog” is a singular subject; “drinks” is a singular present tense verb. A common mistake in S-V Agreement is to assume that present tense verbs ending in “s” (ex: drinks, runs, dances) are plural. They are in fact singular. Be careful! Singular
The girl dances.
The girls dance. (No “s” on end of a plural verb!)
The dog drinks.
The dogs drink.
The boy runs.
The boys run.
Mary and Laura play.
Reminder: Singular present tense verbs end in “s” (Ex: The dog walks). Plural present tense verbs do not end in “s,” but plural subjects do (Ex: The dogs walk.).
Prepositional Phrases and Why They Matter Look at the sentence below. EXAMPLE: The boxes of cake mix are on the shelf. The verb is “are,” but what is the subject? Is it “boxes” or “cake mix”? In order to figure out the subject, we must eliminate the prepositional phrase which is often times inbetween the subject and the verb. A prepositional phrase is a two - to four - word phrase (sometimes more) that begins with a preposition (above, among, at, below, beneath, between, in, of, over, to, under). A verb must agree with its subject, not with the object of a prepositional phrase, which often comes between the subject and the verb. EXAMPLE: The boxes of cake mix are on the shelf. Since “of” is a preposition, we ignore the prepositional phrase “of cake mix.” Therefore, “boxes” is the plural subject, which matches perfectly with the plural verb “are.”
Below are some samples of prepositional phrases: Preposition above among at below beneath under
Object of Prepositional Phrase in of on over to
the trees the flowers the movies the trees the trees
the lab the school the bridge the store the table
EXAMPLE: The teachers in the classroom is/are very experienced. Since we know that “in” is a preposition, then it makes sense that “in the classroom” is a prepositional phrase. Cross out “in the classroom.” You are left with “The teachers... (is/are) very experienced.” “Teachers” is a plural subject, so it must take the plural verb “are.” However, what if we have an inverted sentence? EXAMPLE: Under the tree is/are several flowers. In this case, the verb must be plural (“are”) because the subject (“flowers”) is plural.
Pronouns and Indefinite Pronouns Simple pronouns and their numbers (singular/plural) are as follows: Singular
Robert and Linda dance.
Singular indefinite pronouns take the singular verb. EXAMPLE: Everyone in the class supports the teacher. “Everyone” is a singular subject. “In the class” is the prepositional phrase. “Supports” is the singular present tense verb (notice the “s” on the end). Other singular indefinite pronouns are anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, every, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, somebody, someone, something. EXAMPLE: Every man, woman, and child was/were given a book. Each student is/are required to pass the final exam.
Since “Every” and “Each” are both indefinite pronouns, they take singular verbs.
Indefinite pronouns such as few, many, and several are plural and take plural verbs. EXAMPLE: Both of my dogs has/have collars. Several of my friends is/are sick.
Since “Both” and “Several” are plural indefinite pronouns, they take the plural verbs “have” and “are.”
Special Cases If a sentence has two subjects connected by or/nor, either/or, or neither/nor, the verb must agree with the second subject (the subject closer to the verb). EXAMPLE: Neither the dogs nor the cat is going outside. The singular subject “cat” matches the singular verb “is.” If we flip the sentence, the verb will change. EXAMPLE: Neither the cat nor the dogs are going outside. “Dogs” is a plural subject that takes the plural verb “are.” However, if a sentence begins with “neither” or “either” without the “or/nor” combination, the verb is singular. EXAMPLE: Neither of the two stores is open. Either store is fine with me.
Subject-Verb Agreement Practice Exercises 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
Everyone (has/have) done his or her homework. Each of the students (is/are) responsible for doing his or her work. Either my father or my brothers (is/are) going to sell the car. Neither my sisters nor my mother (is/are) going to sell the house. The samples on the tray in the lab (need/needs) testing. Mary and John usually (plays/play) together. Both of the dogs (has/have) collars. Neither the dogs nor the cat (is/are) very hungry. Either the girls or the boy (walk/walks) in the evening. Either the boy or the girls (walk/walks) in the evening. At the end of the fall (comes/come) the hard tests. The slaughter of animals for their fur (has/have) caused controversy. The student, as well as his teacher, (was/were) going on the field trip. The hard tests (comes/come) at the end of the fall. Both of my roommates (has/have) decided to live in the dorms.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
Subject-Verb Agreement Answers Everyone has done his or her homework. Each of the students is responsible for doing his or her work. Either my father or my brothers are going to sell the car. Neither my sisters nor my mother is going to sell the house. The samples on the tray in the lab need testing. Mary and John usually play together. Both of the dogs have collars. Neither the dogs nor the cat is very hungry. Either the girls or the boy walks in the evening. Either the boy or the girls walk in the evening. At the end of the fall come the hard tests. The slaughter of animals for their fur has caused controversy. The student, as well as his teacher, was going on the field trip. The hard tests come at the end of the fall. Both of my roommates have decided to live in the dorms.