Verb Agreement Handout

Verb Agreement Handout
The subject and the verb must agree in person and number.
To determine the correct form of the verb, find the subject and identify it as singular or plural. Then make the verb agree in person.
Sometimes the subject is not easy to identify. Follow the rules given below for these more difficult cases.
1. Intervening Words
a. prepositional phrases modifying the subject
Example: The BOOK (S) of stories.
b. prepositions mistaken for conjunctions
Example: The BOYS (S), as well as girls.
c. negative subjects
Example: The BOYS (S), not the girls.
Make the verb agree with the subject, not with the intervening element.
2. Inversion of Subject and Verb
a. Verb precedes subject --
Example: In the class WERE (V) the BOYS (S).
b. There precedes verb.
Example: There ARE (V) the four BOYS (S) in the room.
Identify the true subject even if it means changing the word order to subject -verb.
3. Singular Indefinite Pronouns
a. These pronouns are singular and always take a singular verb.
One, everybody, each, everyone, anybody, many, anyone, nobody, someone, no one, somebody, every
b. The word none may be either singular or plural.
None is happy.
None are happy.
4. Alternate Subject: The conjunctions or, either...or, neither...nor, not...but join two or more subjects.
The verb agrees with the nearer subject.
Either the coach or the PLAYERS (S) ARE (V) responsible.
Neither the players nor the COACH (S) IS (V) responsible.
Not the coach, but the PLAYERS (S) ARE (V) responsible.
5. Predicate Nouns: The verb agrees with the subject, not the predicate noun.

WHAT (S) we need, in my opinion, IS (V) good leaders.
6. A number, the number:
"A number" signals a plural subject: it means "many."
Example: A number of students find English challenging.
"The number" signals a singular subject; it refers to an amount.
Example: The number of cars is too many for the parking spaces available.

7. Collective nouns (team, committee, jury, majority, and so on) take a singular verb if one thinks of the group as a unit or by a plural verb is one thinks of the separate members of the group.
8. Nouns of measurement
a. Nouns of measurement, when considered as a unit, take a singular verb; when not considered as a unit, they take a plural verb.
Three dollars is a good price.
Three years in this place are enough.
b. In arithmetical statements one may use either a singular or plural verb (usually a singular).
Six plus two is eight.
9. Nouns ending in S-
a. Those almost always taking a singular verb are: economics mathematics physics
ethics, civics, measles, mumps, news, whereabouts
b. Those almost always taking a plural verb are:
scissors, trousers, pliers, acoustics, tweezers
c. Those which may be either singular or plural are:
wages, politics, means, tactics, athletics

10. Relative Pronouns
a. The antecedent of the relative pronoun determines the verb.
It is I who am wrong.
It is he who is wrong.
b. Notice the one of and anyone of before a relative pronoun, such as whom, who, which, or that.
This is one of the problems that bother us.
This is the only one of the problems that bothers us.
This article orignally appeared on http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/English/writingcenter/verbagreement.htm

Verb Agreement Handout 7.1 of 10 on the basis of 1606 Review.