26 August Monday

Understanding Subject- Verb Agreement

Dr. P K JayarajUpdated: Monday Feb 11, 2019

Subject- Verb agreement can be tricky for many people. The basic subject- verb agreement rule in English is very simple. It states that a singular subject takes a singular verb, while a plural subject takes a plural verb.
  Let’s take a look at a few examples to understand this concept. Example 1: Benito doesn’t know the answer. In this case, the subject of the sentence is ‘Benito’ and the verb used is singular in nature, ‘doesn’t’. We should not use the plural form of the verb ‘don’t’.  Example 2: Annie and her brothers are at school. In this example, two subjects are joined by ‘and’ and the verb is plural.
  Here are a few exceptions in subject verb-agreement rules. When two singular nouns joined by ‘and’ refer to the same person or thing, the verb is singular. Examples: A good man and useful citizen has passed away. The famous juggler and conjurer is too unwell to perform. Indefinite pronouns (everyone, each one, someone, somebody, no one, nobody, anyone, anybody etc.) are always singular. For example:  Everyone is selfish. That night everyone of the boat’s crew was down with fever. We do not use ‘are’ or ‘were’ in these sentences.
   If connectives/appositives like along with, together with, as well as, accompanied by etc. are used to combine two subjects, the verb agrees with the subject mentioned first. Examples: The Prime Minister, together with his wife, greets the press cordially. The man with all the birds lives on my street. The movie, including all the previews, takes about two hours to watch. The players, as well as the captain, want to win.
  When the subjects joined by ‘either or’ or ‘neither nor’ are of different persons, the verb will agree in person and number with the noun nearest to it. Examples:  Either my mother or my father is coming to the meeting. Either my shoes or your coat is always on the floor.
    Beware of collective nouns.  Collective nouns like Jury, Army, Committee, Assembly etc. take a singular verb when they subscribe to one view. Examples: The Jury is unanimous in its judgment.  The committee debates these questions carefully. If they express divergent views, the verb should be used in the plural. The jury were divided in their opinions. Some nouns like mathematics, politics, news, innings, civics etc take a singular verb. Some nouns like scissors, trousers, measles, spectacles, pants, riches etc take a plural verb. Examples: Mathematics is John’s favourite subject, while Civics is Andrea’s favourite subject. Your pants are at the cleaner’s. Use a singular verb with sums of money or periods of time. Example: Eight dollars is the price of a movie these days.
   Choose the correct verb to complete the following sentences.
1.The jury..........divided in their opinions.
     a)was     b)were   c)had   d)have
2.That night everyone of the boat’s crew.......down with fever.
     a)was  b)have been  c)were  d)had
3.A good man and useful citizen.........passed away.
     a)is   b)were   c)have been  d)has
4.The famous juggler and conjurer .......too unwell to perform.
    a)has    b)have  c)is  d)were
5.Benito..........know the answer.
    a)don’t    b)doesn’t   c)was   d)were
6.Annie and her brothers..........at school.
   a)is  b)was  c)does  d)are
7.Either my mother or my father...........coming to the meeting.
    a)is   b)were   c)have been  d)don’t
8. George and Tamara..........want to see that movie.
     a)isn’t   b)doesn’t   c)don’t  d)weren’t
9.Either my shoes or your coat ......always on the floor.
    a)are    b)is   c)have been    d)were
10.One of my sisters..........going on a trip to France.
    a)are   b)were   c)have been   d)is
11.The man with all the birds........on my street.
    a)lives   b)live   c)were living  d)have lived
12.The movie, including all the previews,...........about two hours to watch.
    a)taking   b)take   c)takes  d)are taking
13.The players, as well as the captain, ........to win.
    a)wants    b)want  c)doesn’t want  d)wanting
14.Mathematics .........John’s favourite subject, while Civics is Andrea’s favourite subject.
    a)were   b)don’t    c)doesn’t    d)is
15. Eight dollars..........the price of a movie these days.
     a)is    b)are   d)were   d)have
16. Your pants .........at the cleaner’s.
    a)is    b)has been   c)are   d)was
17.There were fifteen candies in that bag. Now there .........only one left!
     a)are    b)is   c)have been   d)being
 18.The committee .........these questions carefully.
    a)are debating   b)have debated   c)were debating   d)debates
19.The Prime Minister, together with his wife, .........the press cordially.
     a)greets     b)greeting   c)greet    d)have greeted
20.All of the CDs, even the scratched one,........in this case.
     a)is   b)was   c)are     d)has been
   Answers: 1)b, 2)a, 3)d, 4)c, 5)b, 6)d, 7)a, 8)c, 9)b, 10)d, 11)a, 12)c, 13)b, 14)d, 15)a, 16)c, 17)b, 18)d, 19)a, 20)c.

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