Subject-Verb Agreement University Learning Center PC 247 / AC I 160 Developed by Chris Losa
Keep Your Eyes Open Although often overlooked, problems with Subject- Verb Agreement are REAL! To help avoid these errors, we will discuss: How to make Subjects and Verbs agree in number, What to do with tricky subjects like Each and Every, What to do with compound subjects Learn to spot and correct these errors and become a believer.
Recognizing Subjects and Verbs A complete sentence must have a SUBJECT and a VERB. The subject is the who or what that performs the action. The verb is the action word.
Spot the Subject and Verb The players on our side are strong. The players on our side are strong. Players is the subject and are is the verb. Once you’ve identified the Subject and the Verb, you have to make sure they agree in Number. Singular subjects require singular verbs and plural subjects require plural verbs.
What Next? An easy way to make your subjects and verbs agree is to think about the S. Usually, plural nouns end with the letter S and singular nouns do not. Verbs are the opposite: For the most part, singular verbs end with the letter S and plural verbs do not.
Therefore... The carS run, but the car runS. The plural noun cars takes the plural verb run. There is only one S in the pair. The singular noun car takes the singular verb runs. Again, There is only one S in the pair.
BEWARE Compound subjects do not end with S. Instead, compound subjects consist of two or more subjects joined by and. We treat these subjects like any other plural subject. The student and the instructor work long hours.
BEWARE The subject consists of two people. Therefore, it is plural.
BEWARE BE CAREFUL! When subjects are joined by and and combine to form a single thing or person, they are treated like a singular subject. Use a singular verb with such compound subjects.
Example: Spaghetti and meatballs has a place on many menus. Spaghetti and meatballs is acting as a unit, as a singular subject.
Using Each and Every Each and Every are singular pronouns. Therefore, they require singular verbs. Every flying saucer was glowing.
Using Each and Every BEWARE! You always use a singular verb with each and every, even if they precede subjects joined by and. Each alien hand and foot leaves a distinct print.
Compound Subjects Joined By Words Like Or Be careful when your subjects are joined by the following words: or nor either... or neither... nor not only... but (also)
Compound Subjects Joined By Words Like Or In such cases, the verb agrees with the subject nearest it. Example: Either the instructors or the student knows the answer. Try to ignore everything before the final subject
Compound Subjects Joined By Words Like Or Either the instructors or the student knows the answer. The singular subject student requires the singular verb knows.
What if the Subject is an Indefinite Pronoun? Indefinite Pronouns refer to nonspecific people or things. They are usually singular and require singular verbs.
What if the Subject is an Indefinite Pronoun? The following common Indefinite Pronouns usually take singular verbs: Another each everything nothing anybody either neither somebody anyone every nobody someone anything everyone no one something
What if the Subject is an Indefinite Pronoun? BEWARE! A few indefinite pronouns— none, some, more, most, any, and all—can be either singular or plural, depending on the context. Example: Some of our streams are polluted; some pollution is reversible, but all pollution is a threat to nature
Making Verbs Agree With the Antecedents of Who, Which, and That When Who, Which, or That starts a clause, the verb agrees with the noun or pronoun to which Who, Which, or That refers (its Antecedent).
Making Verbs Agree With the Antecedents of Who, Which, and That The scientist will share information with the students who work with her. George Jones is the student who works in the lab.
Using Singular Verbs with Titles and Terms Titles and terms are treated as singular subjects–even if they contain plural words. Examples: Les Miserables is a popular musical. “Disciplinary measures” is a euphemism for punishment.
You’ve Been Warned See if you can spot Subject-Verb Agreement errors. Subjects and Verbs must agree in number. Be careful with subjects like Each and Every—these are singular. Pay close attention to subjects joined with words like and and or—these subjects can be either singular or plural.
Information Cited and Paraphrased from Troyka, Lynn Q. Quick Access: Reference For Writers. 3 rd Ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001.
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