Subject-Verb Agreement Rules with Example

The verb is the most difficult as well as an important part of speech for its multifarious forms. To have an excellent handle on the verb with its subject, the Subject-Verb Agreement Rules are to be known with great care and much attention.

Below are some of the most important rules regarding the Subject-Verb Agreement. These are usually given to the students to test if they know the right form of that particular verb for its subject.

-Rule 1:

The verb must agree in Number and Person with its ‘own subject’. That is to say if the subject is a third person singular number, then ‘s’ / ‘es’ will be added to the verb in the Present Indefinite Tense.

 All other verbs like ‘have’ and ‘be’ must agree in Number and Person with its subject.

Example:

  • John walks to college every day.
  • Honey tastes sweet.
  • Faruk writes a letter.
  • William has a laptop.
  • Vanessa is a girl.

-Rule 2:

Two or more singular Nouns connected by ‘and’ are generally followed by a Plural Verb.

Example:

  • William and Mark go to school every day.
  • William and his brother get up early in the morning.
  • Teachers and the students are coming to join the ceremony.
  • Oil and water do not mix.

-Rule 3:

When two Singular Nouns connected by ‘and’ express one inseparable idea, they can be followed by a singular verb

Example:

  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Bread and butter is needed to make pizzas.

-Rule 4.

If the subject is gerund or infinitive then the verb will be singular.

Example:

  • Smoking is bad for health.
  • To smoke is bad for health.

Rule 5:

In a sentence, if two subjects, one is positive and another is negative, are connected by ‘but’, the verb will follow the positive subject. That is, if the positive subject is singular, the verb will be singular, if the positive subject is plural, the verb will be plural.

Example:

  • Not the cricket players but the umpire was responsible for losing the match.
  • Not the umpire but the cricket players were responsible for losing the match.
  • Not the people but a police officer helps the boy.
  • Not the police officer but the people help the boy.

-Rule 6.

Sometimes, it will be found that a subject has been used with a prepositional phrase. That is a subject can be followed by a prepositional phrase. In this case, if the subject is singular, the verb will be singular, and if the subject is plural, the verb will be plural. The prepositional phrase has no role in controlling the verb.

subject-verb agreement
subject-verb agreement

Example:

  • The study of these books is very enjoyable.
  • The effect of those government projects seems to change our lives.
  • The teachers of this college are very expert in teaching.

Similarly, if there is a participle phrase between the subject and the verb, the prepositional phrase has no role in controlling the verb.

Example:

  • The boy carrying the books is going to school.
  • The girl picking flowers is my sister.
  • The players playing cricket are all very swift and agile.

-Rule 7.

If any one of the following four phrases is used with the subject, it will not have any effect on the verb. That is verb will be used on the basis of its singularity or plurality.

  • accompanied by
  • along with
  • as well as
  • together with

Example:

  • William, along with parents, is going to a party.
  • Students, accompanied by their teachers are going on a study tour.
  • Vanessa, as well as her friends, was watching TV shows.

-Rule 8.

If there is a word like ‘each’, ‘every’, ‘no’ before the subject, the verb will be singular.

Example:

  • Every boy and girl was told to complete the lesson.
  • Each man and each woman was given a flower.
  • Every teacher and every student has played an important role for this success.
  • No man is happy with what he has.

-Rule 9.

Use of ‘no’: If there is a singular noun or uncountable noun after the word ‘no’, the verb will be singular. If there is a plural noun after the word ‘no’, the verb will be plural ‍.

Example:

  • No decision has been taken on this project.
  • No decisions have been taken on this project.
  • No chairs were left to sit on.
  • There are no pens on the table.

Use of ‘none’: The word ‘none’ is used to mean ‘not one’ or ‘not any’. and ‘none’. If there is an uncountable noun after the word ‘none’, the verb will be singular. If there is a plural noun after the word ‘none’, the verb will be plural. Remember: ‘none’ should not be used to mean ‘no one’ or ‘nobody’.

subject-verb agreement
subject-verb agreement
subject-verb agreement

Example:

  • None of the pens write well.
  • None of these books are mine.
  • None of the money was spent on this project.
  • None of the players have come today to play soccer.
  • I found three pens, but none of them are usable.
  • None is perfect in this world. [Incorrect, do not use ‘none’ this way.]

-Rule 10.

If ‘anyone’, ‘someone’, ‘everybody’, ‘everyone’, ‘everything’, ‘anybody’, ‘anyone’, ‘anything’, ‘nobody’, ‘nothing’, ‘somebody’, ‘something’, ‘someone’, ‘everybody’, ‘each’, etc. is used as the subject of the sentence, the verb will be ‍singular.

Example:

  • Everybody gets equal medical care at this hospital.
  • Everyone likes to learn English.
  • Nobody goes over there.
  • Nobody studies so much as Mark.
  • Has anybody talked to William?
  • Everybody looks happy today.
  • Someone wants to talk to you.

-Rule 11.

If the word ‘either’ is used without ‘or’, and if the word ‘neither’ is used without ‘nor’, the verb will be singular.

Example:

  • Either of these metro trains goes towards university.
  • Either of you has this work.
  • Neither school is that much expensive.

-Rule 12.

If ‘either + noun ……. ……..or + noun’, or ‘neither + noun… ………….. nor + noun’ is used in a sentence, the verb will be used according to the person and number of the nearest noun or pronoun.

Example:

  • Either my friends or my brother is coming to attend the meeting .  [The nearest noun ‘brother’ is singular; so the verb ‘is’ is singular.]
  • Either my mother  or  my sisters are going to prepare lunch for us.  [The nearest noun ‘sisters’ is plural; so the verb ‘are’ is plural.]
  • Neither my friends nor my brothrer has told him this. [The nearest noun ‘brother’ is singular; so the verb ‘has’ is singular.]
  • Neither Vanessa nor her brothers have done this. [The nearest noun ‘brothers’ is plural; so the verb ‘have’ is plural.]

Remember: ‘Or + noun’ can be used without ‘either’, and it often makes sense. But we cannot use ‘nor + noun’ without ‘neither’. That is to say, we can use ‘nor + noun’ in a sentence if there’s a ‘neither + noun‘.

Example:

  • My friends or my brother is coming to attend the meeting.
  • My mother  or  my sisters are going to prepare lunch for us.

-Rule 13.

If the word ‘all’ is used before an uncountable noun, then the verb will be ‍singular. If ‘all’ is used before the plural countable noun, then the verb will be ‍plural. And if ‘all’ is used before a collective noun, then the verb can be ‍singular or plural.

Example:

  • Uncountable: All money is spent for his medical treatment.
  • Uncountable: All art tells something for our learning.
  • Plural countable: All school students love to listen fairy tales .
  • Plural countable: All children are very cute and beautiful.
  • Collective noun: Our class was suspended for a month for the Covid-19 crisis.

-Rule 14.

The phrase ‘a number of’ will be followed by a plural noun and the verb will be plural. ‘the number of’ will be followed by a plural noun and the verb will be singular. That is ‘a number of ‘takes a plural verb, and ‘the number of’ takes a singular verb.

Example:

  • A number of days were required to finish the project.
  • A number of steps were taken to upgrade the system.
  • A number of students are coming to learn English.
  • The number of students admitted to this college was five hundred.
  • The number of people is waiting for taking the Covid-19 vaccine.

-Rule 15.

  • The phrase ‘one of the’ means ‘one’. Therefore, write sentences using this structure: ’One of the + plural noun + singular verb’ and
  • The phrase ’some of the’ means ‘at least two’. Therfore, write sentences using this structure: ‘Some of the + plural noun + plural verb’. In the same way, ‘a few of’, most of’ and ‘all of’ take plural verb.

Example:

  • One of the women has purchased a grammar book.
  • One of the students is very sloth in the class.
  • Some of my pens have been given to them as gifts.
  • A few of my friends are doing jobs in India.
  • All of my friends were very sympathetic to me.

-Rule 16.

  • More than one + singular verb
  • More than one + noun + singular verb

Example:

  • More than one is enough for us.
  • More than one class is enough for us.
  • More than one task is completed.

We can also use a plural verb with ‘more than’ in the following structures.

  • More than two + plural verb
  • More than two/three + plural noun + plural verb

Example:

  • More than two are enough for us.
  • More than four classes are enough for us.

Again, if a sentence / clause starts with the phrase ‘more than one + of + plural noun’, use plural verb.

Example:

  • More than one of the classes are enough for us.
  • More than one of the gifts are very attractive.

-Rule 17.

Use of: ‘half of + noun’, ‘a part of + noun’, ‘a percentage of + noun’, ‘a proportion of + noun’ and ‘a majority of + noun’.

If the noun after ‘half of/a part of/a percentage of’ is ‍singular the verb will be singular. And if the noun is plural, the verb of the sentence will be plural.

Example:

  • Half of it was found in the drawer.
  • Half of the women are still unmarried.
  • A majority of the players demand high salaries.
  • A percentage of the voters know why he won the election.

-Rule 18.

Although the word ‘pair’ means ‘a set of two things’, it is regarded as a single unit. So after ‘pair of’ a plural noun will be used, but the verb will be singular.

But when the phrase ‘pair of’ is not used to describe the two things that make a set, the verb will be plural. The two things that make a set are: scissors, trousers, shorts, pants, tweezers, glasses, shoes, etc.

Example:

  • Her pair of shoes looks beautiful.
  • A pair of gloves is necessary to protect your hands.
  • His pair of jeans is very old.
  • The pants are in the wardrobe.
  • A pair of pants is in the wardrobe.
  • There are trousers on the bed.
  • There is a pair of trousers on the bed.
  • The shoes are not expensive.
  • This pair of shoes is not expensive.

-Rule 19.

There is / was followed by a singular subject and there are / were followed by a plural subject. Similarly, here is / was followed by a singular subject, and here are/were followed by a plural subject.

Example:

  • There is a pencil on the table.
  • There are pencils on the table.
  • Here is your laptop.
  • Here are your keyboard and mouse.

-Rule 20.

Singular verbs are preferable for nouns that refer to a group of persons / things / animals.

Example:

  • The government has directed us to take Covid 19 vaccine.
  • The committee meets twice a month.
  • The committee has decided to award him for his outstanding performance.

-Rule 21.

Singular verbs are used for distance, measurement, and time.

Example:

  • Distance: 50 kilometers is not a long distance.
  • Measurement: Two liters of water is needed to satisfy the thirst of four people.
  • Time: Twenty hours is required to finish the assignment.

-Rule 22.

After arithmetic addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, the verb will be singular.

Example:

  • Addition: Four plus three is seven.
  • Subtraction: Ten minus three is seven.
  • Multiplication: Four times four is sixteen.
  • Division: Hundred divided by two is fifty.

Rezaul Karim

Hi, my name is Rezaul Karim. I am an English teacher and founder of LearnEnglishWithRezaul.com. I work with non-native English learners to help them understand English grammar from basic to intermediate. I also help them improve their conversation skills, and communication ability and reduce their accent. I hope you may like my posts on this website, and if you really really feel that this page/website is useful for English learners, please happily share it for others to know.

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