A firm grasp of the rules of subject verb agreement is essential for expressing yourself in the English language.
Understanding Subject Verb Agreement
When discussing subject verb agreement, it’s helpful to remember that a singular subject takes a singular verb and a plural subject takes a plural verb. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example:
- Anyone, everyone, someone, no one, and nobody always require singular verbs.
- Neither and either require singular verbs even though they seem to be referring to two separate things.
- Sums of money or periods of time require a singular verb.
- When a sentence compounds a positive and a negative subject and only one is plural, the verb should agree with the positive subject.
- Words that indicate portions of a whole, such as percent, fraction, some, all, none, and remainder require a singular verb only if the object of the preposition is singular.
- Who, that, and which are singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them.
- Typically, you should use a plural verb with two or more subjects when they are connected by and.
- There and here are never considered to be subjects. In sentences beginning with here or there, the subject follows the verb.
- As well as and along with do not function the same as and. The phrase introduced by as well as or along with modifies the earlier word, but does not compound the subjects.
- If a sentence includes modifiers between the subject and verb, this does not affect whether the verb is singular or plural.
- Just because a word ends in –s does not automatically make it plural. Consider the word is as an example of this rule.
- A collective noun such as team or staff can be either singular or plural depending upon the rest of the sentence.
For a more detailed explanation of the rules of subject verb agreement, complete the self-guided verb study unit on the Townson University Web site.
Test Your Knowledge
If you’re looking for online quizzes to test your knowledge of subject verb agreement, YourDictionary recommends visiting the following helpful links:
- Capital Community College offers a 13 question quiz on subject verb agreement. A hint button is provided if you’re having trouble completing the quiz.
- City University of Seattle has a quiz with 22 questions. Select the correct answer from the pull down menu, then submit the quiz to receive your score.
- The Grammar Blue Book provides a challenging multiple choice quiz to measure your grasp of the rules governing subject verb agreement.
If you are a teacher searching for printable worksheets to distribute to your class, these Web sites may be useful:
- Instructor Web has a lesson plan for teachers to use when teaching subject verb agreement to junior high and high school students. However, registration is required to gain access to all of the lesson materials.
- Teachnology offers a variety of printable worksheets for teachers who are discussing the correct use of verbs. Two of the worksheets deal exclusively with subject verb agreement.
- Georgia Southern University has a printable quiz with 20 questions covering subject verb agreement.
Resources for ESL Learners
Those who are learning English as a second language often find it difficult to master the rules of subject verb agreement. If you’re looking for resources to help ESL students learn more about subject verb agreement, YourDictionary recommends the following helpful links: