Subject-Verb Agreement

Published on May 10, 2019

Rule 1

Singular subjects take singular verbs.
You must be thinking, what are these singular subjects and singular verbs. Let us clear this.
Singular subject refers to a noun or pronoun that represents one person/doer.
Singular Subjects Singular Verbs
John, David, Rachel, Monica, He, She, it, dog, rabbit, cow, boy, girl, woman, man, kid, child etc, diagram, graph, picture Am, Is, was, has, does, write(s), drink(s), send(s), explain(s), accepts, rejects, sets, condemns, calls.
While making Simple Present Tense, we add (s/es) with verbs to make them singular.

  • He goes to the gym every day.
  • John invites his friends.
  • Robin calls her sister to inform about the accident.
  • Rachel is very shy. 
  • Monica has a beautiful red gown to wear to the party.
  • This picture explains the structure clearly.
  • Karen does not meet new people.
  • Does she play cricket?

Rule 2

Plural subjects take plural verbs.
Now, what are plural subjects and verb?
When we refer to more than one thing, that becomes plural subject. A plural subject always takes a plural verb. 
Singular Subjects Singular Verbs
They, we, people, students, girls, boys, women, men, graphs, pictures, charts, books, tables, chairs, parents, friends etc. Are, were, have, had, drink, explain, run, write, explain, study, teach, ask, call, tell, prepare, leave, invite

  • Kids were playing in the park.
  • We are going.
  • John and Sam had a drink.
  • The graphs are in the closet.

Note 1

In the sentences "Karen does not like to meet new people."  and "Does she play cricket?"
We have already placed "/es" with "do" to make it singular, therefore verbs "meet" and "play" will not use (s).

Note 2

Had is a singular and plural verb. It can be used with a singular subject as well as a plural subject.
  • Seeta had cleared the exam.
  • Seeta and Geeta had cleared the exam.
"Had" is used in "Past Tenses".

Note 3

"You" represents singular and plural subjects but it always takes plural verbs.
  • You are my friend. (singular)
  • You are my friends. (plural)
  • You were my brother. (singular)
  • You were my brother. (plural)
  • You have cleared the exam. (singular or plural)
  • You had cleared the exam. (singular or plural)

Common Confusion

Students often make mistakes when they get two Subjects i.e. Students and New York. Here, the main subject must be identified. In the above picture, " Students" is the main subject and therefore, a plural verb must be used.
Cattle is a plural subject and it always takes plural verbs.

Rule 3

In an optative sentence, a singular subject takes a plural verb.
  • Long live the king!
  • Long may she reign!

Rule 4

Two singular nouns joined by "AND"
Case (i)- If two singular nouns are joined by "AND" and the first noun is preceded by articles (a, an, the) or possessive adjectives( as, my, your, our, hers, his etc), then it expresses the same person and it takes singular noun.

Case (ii)- If two singular nouns are joined by "AND" and the articles (a, an, the) or possessive adjectives( as, my, your, our, hers, his etc) are used before each singular noun, then we use a plural verb because we are referring to "TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE"

Rule 5

Use of Each

Each+Noun takes a singular verb
  • Each girl has a sheet. 
Each + Noun1 and Noun2 take a singular verb
  • Each girl and boy is working
Each+ Noun1 and Each+Noun2 take a singular verb
  • Each boy and each girl is working hard. 
Each of+ Plural Noun takes a singular verb
  • Each of the boys is intelligent.

Rule 6

Use of Every

Every+ Noun1 and Noun2 takes a singular verb
  • Every boy and girl is studious.
Every+ Noun1 and Every+ Noun2 takes a singular verb.
  • Every man and woman is laborious.
Every+Noun1 takes a singular verb
  • Every child is precious. 

Rule 7

Use of Either

If either is used as the subject, it takes a singular verb
  • Either/Neither machine works well. 
  • There are two pens, either writes well.
Either of + plural subjects takes a singular verb
  • Either of these boys is intelligent.
  • Either of these cars was black.
  • Either of them is guilty

Rule 8

Use of Neither

If neither is used as the subject, it takes a singular verb.
  • Neither student was hardworking.
Neither of + plural subjects takes a singular verb
  • Neither of the boys was intelligent. 

Rule 9

Use of Many

"Many" and " a great many"  are used in plural sense referring to " a large number of" and therefore we use a plural verb with it.

  • Many were killed in the bus accidents
  • A great many people were present in the auditorium.
Many of/a great many + Plural subject takes a plural verb
  • Many of the students were absent
  • A great many of them are affected.

Rule 10

Indefinite Pronouns: Everybody, everything, something, anything, nothing somebody, anybody, nobody, everyone, someone, anyone and no one take a singular verb when used as the subject of the sentence.
  • Everyone wants coffee.
  • Nobody has a pen.
  • Someone is here to meet you.
  • No one has come yet.
  • Nothing is clear.
  • Everything looks normal.

Rule 11

If "the amount of/ a large amount of/ a good deal of" is used as the subject, a singular verb is used.
  • The amount of money is not sufficient.
  • A large amount of money was stolen.
  • A good deal of blood was lost in the accident.

Rule 12

A plural verb is used with 
Both/both of+Plural noun
Several/several of +Plural noun
Various/various of+Plural noun
  • Both girls are happy.
  • Various boys were present.
  • Several people have sleeping bags.
  • Both of the girls were shy
  • Several of them have guns.

Rule 13

Use of None

None/ None of+ singular noun or plural noun take singular verbs.
  • None has arrived.
  • None of this is true.
  • None of the boys is intelligent. 

Rule 14

Use of all

If "All" is used in the sense of "everything" it takes a singular verb.
  • All is ready.
  • All is well.
All/ all of/ not all of+ singular (uncountable) noun takes singular verbs
  • All the money is lost.
  • All the milk is spoiled.
All/All of/not all of+ plural (countable) noun takes plural verbs.
  • All the boys are intelligent.
  • All of the girls were wearing pink suits.
  • Not all of the men are loyal.

Rule 15

Use of No

No+ singular noun takes a singular verb.
  • No work is hard.
  • No girl is ready.
  • No boy has a sheet.
No+ plural noun takes a plural verb.
  • No pens were on sale.
  • No books were available in the market.

Rule 16

If Little of/ a little of/ the little of it/this/that/everything is used as a subject, we use a singular verb.
  • A little of it is enough.
  • This works fine.
  • Everything is on the position.

Rule 17

The verb is used on the basis of the first subject of the sentences are as follow
  • The criminal, along with his followers, has escaped. 
  • Teachers, accompanied by a soldier, have reached the station. 
  • The principal, with all his staff members, is sitting on the stage.
This rule is applied when words like with, together with, along with, in addition to, including, excluding, accompanied by, headed by, are used. 

Rule 18.

In the sentence with a clause starting with "What" a singular verb is used.
  • What I need is none of your concern.
  • What they require is not available in the market.
  • What he likes is a book by Rana Das.

Rule 19

The word "Pain" means "ache" or "suffering" or "mental distress" and it takes a singular verb.
  • This pain is unbearable.
The word "Pains" means "troubles", "hardships, "problems" and it takes a plural verb.
  • His pains have finally paid off.

Rule 20

Uncountable nouns like "Hair, glass, cloth, force and marriage" take singular verbs.
His hair is black.
  • Marriage is a social obligation.
  • Cloth has fine colour.
  • Force of nature is unfathomable. 

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