Quick Grammar | Singular vs. Plural
You probably know that singular means one, while plural means more than one.
When you write, it’s important to correctly pair singular and plural words. For example, indefinite articles like “a” and “an” can only be paired with singular nouns.
You also must pair singular subjects with singular verbs, and plural subjects with plural verbs.
Luke and his friends are at the football game.
- “Luke and his friends” is a plural subject involving more than one person.
- “Are” is a plural verb, so this sentence uses correct subject-verb agreement.
Alexis is at the bus stop.
- “Alexis” is a singular subject involving only one person.
- “Is” is a singular verb, so this sentence also uses correct subject-verb agreement.
Simple enough, right? But there are a few subject-verb agreement rules that can get a bit tricky.
For example, don’t get confused by nouns or pronouns in a phrase that come between the subject and the verb.
The teacher, along with her students, is nervous about the test.
- The subject of this sentence is “the teacher,” NOT “her students.” “The teacher” is a singular subject.
- For this reason, we must use the singular verb “is” instead of the plural verb “was.”
- The verb doesn’t need to agree with nouns or pronouns in the phrase. It only needs to agree with the subject.
Additionally, the following subjects are singular and require a singular verb:
- No one
Each of these steaks is perfectly cooked.
- The subject of this sentence is “each.” (“Steaks” is not the subject. “Of these steaks” is a prepositional phrase that gives us more information about the subject, “each.”)
- “Each” is singular, so we must use the singular verb “is.”
To learn more about using singular and plural words correctly, review WriteLab’s Guide.
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