Grammar Bytes : Subject-Verb Agreement

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Subject-Verb Agreement

A Verb must agree with its Subject in Person and Number. If the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

For example:
 He enjoys swimming.                                    They enjoy swimming.
 The girl sings.                                                 The girls sing.
 The cat sleeps .                                               The cats sleep.
Note: A singular noun denotes one person, place or thing.
If you are not sure what the subject is or whether the subject is singular or plural, ask yourself, “Who or what is doing the action the verb expresses?” or “Who or what is being described?”
William plays badminton.
The news of their engagement surprised everyone.
The boy is being reprimanded.
The scooter is being repaired.
In the first example,
William plays badminton. the answer to “Who plays badminton?” is the subject of the sentence.  – William
In the second example, the answer to “What surprised everyone? is the subject of the sentence. – news
In the third example, “Who is being reprimanded?” – boy
In the fourth example, “What is being repaired?” – scooter
Study the following examples.
The quality of these mangoes is not good.
(What is not good? The ‘quality’ is not good. From this we understand that the real subject of the sentence is ‘quality’)
The owner of these houses lives in Hyderabad.
(Who lives in Hyderabad? The ‘owner’ lives in Hyderabad. Hence, the ‘owner’ is the real subject.)
 v Here are some rules on the Agreement of the Verb with the Subject.
1.     Two or more singular nouns or pronouns joined by and are usually followed by a plural verb:
Jack and David are friends.
Tobacco and alcohol are injurious to health.
Catherine and Juliana have visited the Taj Mahal.
2.     If the two nouns joined by and express the same idea, the verb will be singular.
 Slow and steady wins the race.
Bread and butter is a wholesome food.
3.     When two nouns joined by and refer to the same person, the singular verb is used.
My friend and manager wants to meet me.
The secretary and treasurer is out of station.
My uncle and guardian has gifted me a costly pen.
Note: If the two nouns refer to two different persons, the Articles or Possessive Adjectives should be repeated and the verb should be used in the plural.
My friend and my manager want to meet me.
The secretary and the treasurer are out of station.
My uncle and the guardian have gifted me costly pens.
4.     When two nouns are qualified by each or every, although they connected by and, they require the singular verb.
Each boy and each girl has to appear for this test.
Every man and every woman is to strive for the progress of the country.
5.     When a singular noun or pronoun is connected to another noun or pronoun by with,together with, as well as, the verb should agree with the subject used before with, together with, as well as. In other words, the verb to be supplied should be based on the noun or pronoun (subject) used before with, together with, as well as.
The ship, with its crew was, saved.
The smuggler, together with his accomplices, was arrested.
Money, as well as men, is required for an organisation to be strong.
The workmen, as well as the supervisor, have been dismissed.
Note: When two nouns are connected by as well as, the verb should agree in person and number with the first noun, that is the noun used before as well as.
6.     Singular subjects connected by or, neither…. nor, either…. or, are followed by a singular verb.
No prize or medal was given to the boy though he stood first in the examination.
Neither George nor Tom was present at the meeting.
Either Thomson or Jim has broken the windowpane.
7.     When the subjects connected by or or nor are of different numbers, the plural subject should be written last and it should be followed by a plural verb.
Neither Jose nor his brothers are reliable.
Either Antony or his colleagues have to deal with this problem.
8.     The subjects joined by or or nor are of different persons, the verb should agree in person with the subject nearest to it. (The subjects should be arranged in the proper order – the person spoken to, first; the person spoken of, second; and the speaker, last.)
Neither he nor I am responsible for this.
Neither she nor you are to blame.
Either you or he is mistaken.
Either you or Martin has to lead the team.
However, it is better to avoid such constructions. It is better to write:
He is not to blame, nor are you.
He is mistaken or else I am.
9.     The following words should be followed by a singular verb.
Each, every, either, neither, everyone, anyone, no one, nobody, someone, somebody, everybody, many a
Each of the candidates was interviewed by the Principal.
Every student was present at the meeting.
Either of the candidates has to be appointed.
Neither of the boys is capable of doing this.
Everyone knows what actually happened.
Does anyone else want to come?
No one/ nobody was at home.
Someone/ somebody has picked my pocket.
Everybody has arrived.
Many a student has applied for the scholarship.
10.  When the subject is one of + plural noun, the verb should be singular.
One of the employees has complained against the Manager.
One of my teachers lives in a bungalow.
11.  When a plural number applies to distances, weights, heights or amounts of money, and represents a single figure or quantity, it is treated as a singular and takes a singular verb.
Ten miles is a long distance to cover in an hour.
Two bags of rice costs D 500/–.
 Fifty rupees is not a big sum.
12.  A number of + plural noun is followed by a plural verb.
A number of students are absent.
The number of + plural noun is followed by a singular verb.
The number of students has applied for the scholarship.
13.  The title of a literary work, or the name of a house or a hotel, is a plural. But, for purposes of agreement, it is treated as a singular, since it is one title or one building.
‘Gulliver`s Travels’ was written by Jonathan Swift.
The Rose and Crown is situated in the High Street.
14.    When the subject is the formal there, the verb agrees with the real subject that follows it.
There are forty pupils in our class.
There is a grammatical mistake in the essay you have written.
There are many rooms in his large house.
15.  A collective noun is followed by a singular verb when the group is thought of as a single unit. But when the individual members of the group are thought of, the plural verb is used.
A committee was formed to raise funds for the project.
The committee were divided on the question of increased D.A. for the employees.
The crew of the ship was a mixed group of different nationalities.
The crew of the ship were arrested for drug-related offences.
16.  Names of certain ailments and of certain sciences or branches of knowledge which end in –s are singular, and hence they take a singular verb.
Measles, mumps, shingles, mathematics, physics, economics, ethics
Mumps is a serious illness for grown-up people.
Physics is my favourite subject.


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