Subject Verb Agreement

Business English
First, take a look at this example:
  • The chair is red.
  • The chairs are red.

With one chair, the verb is
singular (is), but with more than
one chair, the verb is
plural (are).  In both sentences, the
subject agrees in number with the verb.

The following sections show the rules of subject verb
agreement.

Pronouns







With pronouns, he, she, and it use the 3rd person form of the
verb, which takes an "s" at the end.  Here are some example
sentences:

  • He lives in Toronto.
  • They live in Vancouver.

  • She works downtown.
  • We work downtown.


Subjects of the sentence are singular or plural.

SINGULAR SUBJECTS


Indefinite Pronouns





Indefinite Pronouns take a single verb, like the 3rd person (He,
She, It) form of the verb.

Examples:
  • Someone is watching us.
  • Everyone lives in the apartment.


Groups





Groups of people or things take singular verbs.  Although they
are multiple people, there is still only
one group.  For
example, although you have brothers, sisters, and parents,
you only have one family.  If it were plural, that would mean
there are two families.

Examples:
  • My family is going to go on vacation.
  • The team plays at 7:00pm.


Gerunds (Verb + ING)

When gerunds are the subject of the sentence, they are
singular.  It is only one action, so the verb is singular.

Examples:
  • Running is fun.                        
  • Swimming is difficult.

Be careful for actions followed by plural nouns.  Remember
there is only one action.

  • Playing games is fun.
  • Buying toys was expensive.


PLURAL SUBJECTS

2 Subjects joined with "and"

Compound subjects joined with "and" must take a plural verb.

Example:        
  • The boy and his dog are playing in the park.


Plural Subjects

These words mean two or more things:

Both, several, many, most, all, few, none, some, any, etc.

Examples:
  • Some of the people are watching the movie.
  • Most of the people live in the city.


Irregular plurals

Although these words may seem singular, they are all plural
nouns:

Children, men, women, people, mice, feet, teeth, fish, geese,
deer

Examples:        
  • The children are playing.
  • My teeth hurt.

For more help with these words, see
irregular plural nouns
page.


Exceptions

Non-Count Nouns are always singular.

  • Some of the sugar is in the kitchen.


Some subjects look plural, but are actually singular.

  • Mathematics is a difficult subject
  • Ten dollars is not a lot of money.
  • The news was on at 9pm last night.


Compound subjects can be considered singular if they
act as one thing.

  • Peanut butter and banana is my favourite sandwich.


Look out for phrases that do not affect the subject,
especially prepositional phrases.

Accompanied by, along with, either…or, neither…nor, among,
as well as, in addition to, together with, joined by, etc.

  • The box of socks and underwear is on the floor.
  • Tom, along with Bob, is going to the party.
  • My friend or my sister is going to help me move.
  • Either the dog, the cat, or the bird is sick.
  • Neither the man, nor his wife is coming to the party.


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.        
Someone
Somebody
Something
No one
Nobody
Nothing
Everyone
Everybody
Everything
Anyone
Anybody
Anything
Family
Team
Group
Band
Class
Flock
Herd
Staff
Company
Cub
Orchestra
 
I
play
You
play
He/She/It
plays
We
play
They
play
Subject verb agreement is
an important English
grammar topic.  Every verb
must agree with its
subject.  Use the lesson
below to help you decide
when to use a singular verb
and when to use a plural
verb.