20 Rules of Subject Verb Agreement
1. Subjects and verbs must agree in number. This is the cornerstone rule that forms the background of the concept.
The dog growls when he is angry. The dogs growl when they are angry.
2. Don’t get confused by the words that come between the subject and verb; they do not affect agreement.
The dog, who is chewing on my jeans, is usually very good.
3. Prepositional phrases between the subject and verb usually do not affect agreement.
The colors of the rainbow are beautiful.
4. When sentences start with “there” or “here,” the subject will always be placed after the verb, so care needs to be taken to identify it correctly.
There is a problem with the ...view middle of the document...
All of the chicken is gone. All of the chickens are gone.
11. The singular verb form is usually used for units of measurement or time.
Four quarts of oil was required to get the car running.
12. If the subjects are both plural and are connected by the words or, nor, neither/nor, either/or, and not only/but also, the verb is plural.
Dogs and cats are both available at the pound.
13. If one subject is singular and one plural and the words are connected by the words or, nor, neither/nor, either/or, and not only/but also, you use the verb form of the subject that is nearest the verb.
Either the bears or the lion has escaped from the zoo. Neither the lion nor the bears have escaped from the zoo.
14. Indefinite pronouns typically take singular verbs. *
Everybody wants to be loved.
15. * Except for the pronouns (few, many, several, both, all, some) that always take the plural form.
Few were left alive after the flood.
16. If two infinitives are separated by and they take the plural form of the verb.
To walk and to chew gum require great skill.
17. When gerunds are used as the subject of a sentence, they take the singular verb form of the verb; but, when they are linked by and, they take the plural form.
Standing in the water was a bad idea. Swimming in the ocean and playing drums are my hobbies.
18. Collective nouns like herd, senate, class, crowd, etc. usually take a singular verb form.
The herd is stampeding.
19. Titles of books, movies, novels, etc. are treated as singular and take a singular verb.
The Burbs is a movie starring Tom Hanks.
20. Final Rule – Remember, only the subject affects the verb!
Examples of subject verb agreement (the subject is bolded and the verb underlined):
My dog always growls at the postal carrier.
Basketballs roll across the floor.
I don’t understand the assignment.
These clothes are too small for me.
Peter doesn’t like vegetables.
20 Rules About Subject-Verb Agreement
1. Use verbs that agree with a subject, not with a noun that is part of a modifying phrase or clause between verb and subject:
“The pot of eggs is boiling on the stove.”
2. Use singular or plural verbs that agree with the subject, not with the complement of the subject:
“My favorite type of movie is comedies,” but “Comedies are my favorite type of movie.”
3. Use singular verbs with singular indefinite pronouns — each, the “-bodies,” “-ones,” and “-things” (anybody, everyone, nothing), and the like:
“Neither is correct.” (And, just as in rule number 1, the presence of a modifier is irrelevant: “Neither of them is correct.”)
4. Use plural verbs with...