Subject-Verb Agreement Examples, Exercises, and Quiz
The basic definition of subject-verb agreement is that singular subjects require singular verbs, and plural subjects require plural verbs. For example, "The boy runs to the store," and "The boys run to the store."
But subject-verb agreement is a tricky grammatical concept to master due to the number of exceptions, idioms, and special rules you must memorize. Below is an outline of some special rules that trip up student writers.
SUBJECTS THAT TAKE SINGULAR VERBS
1. Two singular nouns and pronouns connected by or, either/or, or neither/nor must use a singular verb.
- The dog or the cat tracks mud into the house.
- Either the waiter or waitress takes your order.
- Neither the student nor the teacher wants to give the speech.
2. The words “nobody, “anyone,” “everyone,” “everybody,” “someone,” “somebody,” “each,” and “no one” are singular pronouns and require a singular verb.
- Nobody expects another Spanish Inquisition.
- Everyone wants to go to the party.
- Each student hopes to get an A on the test.
3. Units of measure, such as distances, periods of time, and amounts of money, need a singular verb.
- Forty minutes is a long time to sit in traffic.
- One million dollars is a lot of money.
- Twenty-six miles is a long distance to race.
4. Some nouns, such as “group,” “team,” “class,” and “family,” seem to refer to many people, but are grammatically considered singular. These are called “collective nouns” and take a singular verb.
- My group refuses to work on the class project, so I did it by myself.
- The football team wins every home game.
- My family wants to visit me when I go to college.
SUBJECTS THAT TAKE PLURAL VERBS
1. Sometimes two singular subjects, joined by the word “and,” comprise the subject of a sentence. In this case, the verb must be plural.
- The boy and the girl are hungry.
- Math and science are my favorite subjects.
- Brittany and Susan dance at the studio.
2. There are some exceptions when a noun referring to a single object ends in -s, but takes a plural verb instead. These will just need to be memorized as you learn them.
- My savings were used to pay off student loans.
- My sunglasses are dirty from the beach.
- My pants are too tight; I need a bigger size.
1. “Here” and “there” are never the subjects of a sentence. Instead, the subject follows the verb (which will usually be “is,” “are,” “was,” or “were”).
- Here are the cookies! I’ve been looking for them all day.
- There are billions of people in the world, and I still can’t find a boyfriend.
- There were lions and tigers and bears at the zoo.
2. Words such as “with,” “including,” “in addition to,” and “as well as” do not serve the same purpose as “and.” Put another way, these words and phrases are not part of the subject and should be ignored when determining subject-verb agreement. If the subject is singular, the verb is singular. If the subject is plural, the verb is plural.
- The ducks, as well as the geese, enjoy swimming in the lake.
- The students, including Melanie, want to go on a field trip.
- The man, in addition to his wife, saves money for a new house.
3. If a sentence includes a word or phrase in parentheses, the words in parentheses are not included in the subject of the sentence. Ignore them, and determine whether to use a singular or plural verb based on the subject that comes before. Better still, rewrite the sentence to remove the parentheses.
- Josh (and his little sister Ava) enjoys reading Harry Potter.
- The students (and their teachers) were so happy it was summer vacation.
- The boxer (and his coach) prepares for the match.
4. When you see a phrase with the word “of,” the subject usually comes before “of.” Common phrases are “each of” and “some of.”
- Each of the children want a cookie.
- The committee of students needs a bigger budget.
- A box of chocolates is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day.
Take our Subject-Verb Agreement Quiz to test your knowledge.
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