English grammar rules Subject – Verb agreement
English grammar rules Subject – Verb agreement
SUBJECT VERB AGREEMENT
In English, the verb must agree with its subject in number and person. In other words, the verb must be of the same number and person as the subject. Subjects and verbs must agree in number. This is the main rule that forms the background of the concept.
Subjects don’t always come before verbs in questions. Make sure you accurately identify the subject before deciding on the proper verb form to use.
1 Where are the pieces of this puzzle?
(The subject is not this puzzle but it is the pieces of this puzzle so the subject is plural)
2 The study of languages and sciences is very important for your study.
(The subject is not languages and sciences but it is study.)
When two singular nouns are connected by and the verb used will be plural.
The boy and the girl are waiting outside the school.
A) But when the two nouns connected by and together represent the same person, same thing or same idea the verb used will be singular.
Eg The principal and science teacher has not come to the school today. (Here the principal is also the science teacher)
B) If two different singular nouns express one idea, the verb should be in the singular form. Or the two singular nouns/uncountable nouns are used in pairs then the verb used will be singular.
The law and order situation in the state are under control ✘
The law and order situation in the state is under control ✔
Profit and loss is a part of business. (Profit and loss goes in pairs so a singular verb (is)
Hard work and luck is important for success.
‘Unlike’, no less than’, ‘nothing but’ ‘As well as’, ‘with’, ‘alongwith’, ‘together with’, ‘and not’, ‘In addition to’, ‘but’, ‘besides’, ‘except’, ‘rather than’, ‘accompained by’ and ‘like’ . If these words are the connecting words that join two subjects then the verb used will be according to the first subject.
(1) My sister unlike my brothers wishes to have a career in engineering.
(Singular) (singular verb)
(2) The actress, along with her manager and some friends, are invited to the function ✘
The actress, along with her manager and some friends, is invited to the function ✔
When two or more subjects are connected by or, nor, either … or, neither … nor, the verb is according to the subject close to it.
1 Either James or John are to be promoted. (Incorrect)
Either James or John is to be promoted. (Correct)
2 Neither the girls nor he are to take up this task (Incorrect)
Neither you nor he is to take up this task (Correct)
3 Either the Chief Minister or the Cabinet Ministers is responsible for this problem. (Incorrect)
Either the Chief Minister or the Cabinet Ministers are responsible for this problem. (Correct)
4 Either you or I are responsible for this mistake. (Incorrect)
Either you or I am responsible for this mistake. (Correct)
Usage of either, neither, none etc.
- ‘Neither of……’ It is only used in case of two things or persons and not one of the two.
Neither of his five sons settled in India. (incorrect)
None of his four sons looked after him. (correct)
- ‘Either of……”It means the choice is between two persons and things and one of the two.
Either of the three children has broken the window. (incorrect)
- One of……….. It is used to select one out of something that has more than two.
One of the six boys admitted before the principal that they had all cheated in the exam.
Do not use both and not in the same sentence. If we wish to state that out of the two things not even one of them then use neither of.
Both of the girls did not reach the examination centre on time. (incorrect )
Neither of the girls reached the examination centre on time. (correct)
When ‘not only ……. but also’ is used to combine two subject, the verb agrees with the subject close to it.
Not only silver, but also gold are mined in this country.✘
Not only silver, but also gold is mined in this country.✔
Not only the boys but also the coach wants a day off.
Not only the coach but also the boys want a day off.
When two nouns joined by “and” have their own articles then we consider them as plural and plural verb
The director and the producer is shooting in Himachal. (✘)
The director and the producer are shooting in Himachal. (✔)
But when two nouns joined by “and” do not have their own articles then we consider them as singular and singular verb is used. The article is used only before the first noun.
The principal and director of the school is on leave for three days.
A large and comfortable chair is needed in my study.
A black and a white cat —– means two cats.
A black and white cat ——–only one cat with both colours black and white.
Majority can be singular or plural. If it is used alone it is usually singular, if it is followed by a plural noun, it is usually plural.
The majority believe that the country can progress ✘
The majority believes that the country can progress ✔
The majority of the lecturers believes that the student has not copied in the examination ✘
The majority of the lecturers believe that the student has not copied in the examination ✔
A collective noun is a word that is used for a whole group. It denotes a group of individuals.
Examples of collective nouns
family, group, committee, class, organisation, team, army, club, crowd, government, jury, minority, public, mob etc.
The committee have met and accepted the proposal ✘
The committee has met and accepted the proposal ✔
The family were happy at the news ✘
The family was happy at the news ✔
The crowd was wild with excitement ✔
Our team is certain to win the match ✔
A collective noun is treated as plural when the group it names is considered to be made up of individuals. Because members of the group can act on their own, the word is considered plural.
The play’s cast are rehearsing their lines.
The plural subject cast requires the plural verb are because the members of the cast are functioning as individual people doing separate things.
The jury often have different reactions to the evidence they hear.
The plural subject jury requires the plural verb have because the members of the jury are being considered as individuals.
Our team is going to win the match. ( treated as one unit)
The team have to buy their uniforms themselves. (Referring to the individual members)
Generally with a plural number we use a plural verb.
Ten trees were cut down by the wood cutters.
But for nouns indicating a specific time, money, and measurements (weight , distance and height) used as a whole are singular and take a singular verb.
Twenty-five thousand rupees are not such big amount for him ✘
Twenty-five thousand rupees is not such big amount for him ✔
Two miles are too much for this man to run ✘
Two miles is too much for this man to run ✔
But when they are not used as a whole and are further subdivided into smaller units we use a plural verb.
Note the difference-
- Twenty thousand a handsome salary. (Treated as a singular unit)
- Twenty thousand been spent on different useful commodities such as rent, grocery, fees etc.
When a lot of, a great deal of, plenty of, most of, and some of refer to number (countable noun) , a plural verb is used.
A lot of people was present in the gallery some of the students were absent ✘
A lot of people were present in the gallery some of the students were absent ✔
Note : If these expressions refer to an amount (Uncountable noun) , the verb is in the singular number.
A lot of work has to be completed before we go ✔
A great deal of work has been finished ✔
Names of countries are always singular. Certain names like West indies and United States may seem to be plural as they end in s but they are singular. But in sports, while referring to the players, the name of the country is followed by plural verb. Examples:
England has won the World Cup. (Incorrect)
England have won the World Cup. (Correct)
When the ‘enemy’ is used in the sense “armed forces” of a nation with which one’s country is at war, we have to use the plural verb.
The enemy were forced to retreat.
The enemy were pushed back into their own terrortries by the Indian Army.
Structure: none + of the + non-count noun + singular verb
None of the counterfeit money have been found (incorrect)
None of the counterfeit money has been found (correct)
Structure: none + of the + plural count noun + plural verb
None of the students has finished the exam yet (incorrect)
None of the students have finished the exam yet (correct)
No can take either a singular or plural verb depending on the noun which follows it.
Structure: No + singular noun + singular verb
No example is relevant to this case (correct)
Structure: No + plural noun + plural verb
No examples are relevant to this case (correct)
A number of / the number
Observe the two structures:
(i) a number of + plural noun + plural verb.
(ii) the number of + plural noun + singular verb.
A number of students is going to the class picnic (Incorrect)
A number of students are going to the class picnic (Correct)
The number of days in a week are seven (Incorrect)
The number of days in a week is seven (correct)
The number of residents who have been residing in this colony is quite small (Correct)
A number of the applicants have already been interviewed. (correct)
Sometimes the pronoun who, that, or which is the subject of a verb in the middle of the sentence . The pronouns who, that, and which become singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them. So, if that noun is singular, use a singular verb. If it is plural, use a plural verb.
The verb should not be chosen according to the subject of the sentence.
He is one of the men who do the work.
The word in front of who is men, which is plural. Therefore, use the plural verb do.
The word were replaces was in sentences that express a wish or are contrary to fact.
Example: If the teacher were here, you’d have to answer the question.
The teacher is singular so it should be followed by was. But the teacher isn’t actually here, so we say were, not was. The sentence shows things that are hypothetical, wishful, imaginary, or factually contradictory. In such sentences we use were.
I wish it were Friday.
The following are considered as singular.
Each, Every, Everyone, Someone, Somebody, Nobody, None, One, Any, Many a, More than one are treated as singular. We use a singular verb, singular pronoun and singular noun with them.
(1) Each students from Pinnacle has cleared the exam.
(2) Each boy and each girl has to finish his work by the weekend.
(3) More than one man present there.
(4) Each man and each woman was garlanded by the host.
The word many can be used in the following ways.
1 Many a students is standing in the canteen.
Although the word preceding the verb ‘is’ is plural in nature, the correct verb is singular, because of the presence of ‘many a’.
‘Many a’ will be followed by the singular noun and a singular verb will be used.
2 Many students were standing in the canteen.
3 A great many students were standing in the canteen.
Note : But if each, every, one is followed by ‘of ‘ then the word of will be followed by a plural noun/pronoun. But the verb and pronoun used in the sentence will be singular.
One of the girls/them has made a card for her teacher.
If ‘One’ is the subject of the sentence then the pronouns used will be one’s, oneself etc.
Do not use him ,himself.
(1) One should complete his work in time. (Incorrect)
(2) One should keep one’s promise. (Correct)
In optative sentences the verb used is always plural irrespective of the subject. Even with singular subjects we use a plural verb.
1) God save the world!
2) Long live our prime minister!
3) May he achieve success!
Amount of/ quantity of + Uncountable Noun the verb used will be singular.
(1) The amount of sugar not sufficient to prepare a cup of tea. (Incorrect)
(2) The amount of not sufficient (Correct)
All can be treated as both singular and plural.
When it refers to persons or things it is treated as plural or else it is treated as singular.
1 All are waiting for the principal to arrive.
2 All is well at home.
3 All are well at home. (Referring to persons)
Furniture, advice, work, evidence, equipment, news, information, luggage, baggage, percentage, poetry, knowledge, dirt, dust, traffic, electricity, music, breakage, stationary, scenery, confectionery, pottery, bakery, crockery, behaviour are uncountable nouns. So we use a singular verb with them.
(1) The scenery of Himachal was very beautiful.
(2) I passed but the percentage of marks was not good.
Headphones , knickers , premises (buildings) , Alms , ruins, amends , archives , arrears, auspices, congratulations, embers , fireworks, lodgings, outskirts, particulars, proceeds, regards, riches, remains, savings, shambles, surroundings, tidings, furnishings, earnings, leftovers, troops, tactics, thanks, valuables, forceps, wages, belongings, braces, Scissors, tongs ,pliers, pincers, bellows trousers, pants, pajamas, shorts , gallows , fangs spectacles, goggles, binoculars , eyeglasses .
These nouns are always plural and a plural verb is used with them.
These scissors are for cutting paper.
Your clothes are dirty.
Have you seen my glasses? I want to read the newspaper.
What kind of goods does your company produce?
The table of contents should not contain any pictures.
Firearms were used to disperse the crowd.
I live on the outskirts of the city.
Some of these nouns are often used with the expression a pair of, as they refer to things made up of two parts:
a pair of trousers
a pair of jeans
a pair of shoes
a pair of slippers
a pair of glasses
a pair of gloves
a pair of earrings
Note : With a pair of ……. A singular verb will be used.
A pair of trousers was lying on the bed.
These nouns appear to be plural but are actually singular and we use a singular verb with them.
News, Innings, Politics, Summons, linguistics.
Names of subjects ending in s.
Examples -Physics, Economics, Ethics, Mathematics,
Names of diseases ending in s.
Examples – Mumps, Measles, Rickets Shingles, Billiards, Athletics etc
Athletics is good for young people.
Linguistics is the study of language.
Darts is a popular game in England.
Billiards is played all over the world.
These nouns appear as singular but are plural and a plural verb is used with them.
Cattle, cavalry, infantry, poultry, peasantry, children , gentry, police, people, etc.
These noun are used in singular form only and they are uncountable form only.
Scenery, Poetry, Furniture, Advice, Information, Hair, Business, Mischief, Bread, Stationery, Crockery, Luggage, Baggage, Postage, Knowledge, Wastage, Money, Jewellery, Breakage, Equipment, Work, Evidence, Word ,Fuel .
We cannot use a/an with these nouns immediately before them. To express a quantity of an uncountable noun, use a word or expression like some, a lot of, much, a bit of, a great deal of.
He gave me a great deal of advice before my interview.
Can you give me some information about uncountable nouns?
He did not have much sugar left.
A lot of wonderful jewellery were available in the shop.
A piece of jewellery is here for you.
Note: The verb used varies as per the usage of the noun.
Hair: Be careful with the noun hair which is normally uncountable in English, so it is not used in the plural. It can be countable only when referring to individual hairs.
Example : She has long thick hair.
Two strands of grey hair were found by the police in the car.
Paper: When paper refers to exams it is countable otherwise it is singular.
A lot of paper is used by newspapers.
I have to answer two English papers in May.
Deer, sheep, series, species, fish, crew, team, jury, aircraft, counsel etc. These words are in the same form in singular and plural.
1 A deer was seen in the park.
2 Two deer were seen in the park.
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