In English, every verb must agree with its subject. This lesson shows you how to make all your subjects and verbs agree.
First, let’s think about what subjects and verbs are. A verb is an action. You already know many verbs, like go, walk, play, and run.
The subject is the person or thing that does the action. Take a look at this example:
- The girl plays volleyball.
Girl is the subject and plays is the verb. You know to use plays because the subject is the third person.
When you first started studying English, you used this chart to learn basic subject verb agreement.
- I play
- You play
- He/She/It plays
- We play
- They play
- I play hockey
- You play hockey.
- She plays hockey.
- We play hockey.
- They play hockey.
But, now you need to learn more difficult situations. The next two sections show you when subjects are singular and when they are plural.
The categories below are subjects that are singular even though they may look plural.
All indefinite pronouns are singular. Here is the list:
Here are some examples:
- Someone is dancing.
- Everything is cold.
- Nothing looks new.
- Does anybody want a drink?
Either and Neither
Two subjects joined by “either” or “neither” are singular because only one of the subjects does the action.
- Either Mary, Eva, or Jaden has the books.
- Neither the green nor the pink book is for math class.
Each and Every
These are more examples of indefinite pronouns that are singular:
- Each of the boys lives in an apartment.
- Every boy and girl in the class is from Japan.
Groups are singular. In the examples below you have one family and many brothers:
- My family lives in California.
- My brothers live in California.
In the examples, you have one family and many brothers. That is why family uses the third person verb. Here is a list of common group words with examples:
- My family is going to go on vacation.
- The band plays every Saturday night.
Gerunds and Infinitives
Gerunds and infinitives are one action, so they need singular verbs.
- Working as a chef is fun.
- To work as a chef is fun.
- Cooking food makes me hungry.
Nouns that are not counted are singular. Here are a few examples:
- The sugar is in the kitchen.
- The water goes in the refrigerator.
Be careful! Don’t be confused when you have a lot of one uncountable noun. It is still singular.
- There is a lot of water on the floor.
- Most of the sand is hot.
Compound subjects can be considered singular if they act as one thing.
- Peanut butter and banana is my favourite sandwich.
- Spaghetti and meatballs is for dinner.
The subjects below are plural even though they may sometimes seem like they are singular.
Subjects joined with “and”
The word and always shows you the subjects are plural, like in these examples:
- The man and woman are shaking hands.
- Tom and Carol have a meeting today.
Not all plurals end in “s”. This is a list of irregular plural words:
Here are some examples:
- The children are playing.
- My feet are cold.
Some subjects look plural, but they are actually singular.
- Mathematics is a difficult subject
- Ten dollars is not a lot of money.
- The news was on at 9 pm last night.
Look out for phrases that do not affect the subject, especially prepositional phrases: accompanied by, along with, among, as well as, in addition to, together with, joined by, or.
- The man, but not his wife, was at the party.
- Tom, along with Bob, is going to the party.
- The coach, in addition to the players, was late for the game.
The subject closer to the verb affects the verb.
- The teacher or the students are going to bring the money.
- The students or the teacher is going to bring the money.
Nationalities for people are plural, but languages are singular.
- The Spanish people are very friendly.
- Spanish is an interesting language.
Would you like to practice subject verb agreement?Try these tests: