Important Rules of Subject - Verb Agreement
1. When every and each come before a singular subject joined by and, the verb is singular.
- Every man and woman has the right to vote.
- Each student and teacher was aware of the difficulty.
2. In sentences beginning with here or there, the true subject follows the verb.
- There are four hurdles to jump.
- There is a high hurdle to jump.
- Here are the keys.
3. Several, many, both, few are plural words and take a plural verb.
Both are happy with the grades they got.
Many were lost on the way.
Few have done their homework.
4. When words like the following are used as subjects, they take singular verb.
Everybody knows the answer.
Nobody speaks German here.
Somebody was in the room.
5. A subject will come before a phrase beginning with of. This is a key rule for understanding subjects. The word of is the culprit in many, perhaps most, subject-verb mistakes.
Hasty writers, speakers, readers, and listeners might miss the all-too-common mistake in the following sentence:
Incorrect: A bouquet of yellow roses lend color and fragrance to the room.
Correct: A bouquet of yellow roses lends . . . (bouquet lends, not roses lend)
6. When subjects are joined by words such as neither, either, not only the verb must agree with the closer subject.
Either the man or his wife knows the answer.
Either the man or his friends know the answer.
Either the children or the man knows the answer.
7. Some nouns look plural with –s but they take a singular verb.
- Abstract nouns
8. When a plural noun denotes some specific quantity or amount that is considered as a whole, the verb is generally used in singular form.
- Two-thirds of the village is in ruins. (here ’are’ is not used)
- Five weeks is a good holiday. (here ‘are’ is not used)
9. Generic references with the require plural verb.
- The rich are not always happy.
- The young like to listen to loud music.
- The old hate loud music.
- The English are distant and the French are humorous.
10. Also, this scheme is followed with book titles and names of sciences.
- The Arabian Nights is an amazing book.
- Physics is a difficult subject.