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Subject-Verb Agreement

HyperWrite's Subject-Verb Agreement Study Guide is your comprehensive resource for understanding and applying the rules of subject-verb agreement in English grammar. This guide covers the basic principles, special cases, and common pitfalls to help you write with clarity and precision.

What is Subject-Verb Agreement?

Subject-verb agreement is a fundamental principle in English grammar that ensures the subject and verb of a sentence match in number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third). Maintaining proper subject-verb agreement is essential for clear, correct, and coherent writing.

Basic Rules of Subject-Verb Agreement

  1. A singular subject takes a singular verb, while a plural subject takes a plural verb.
  2. The number of the subject (singular or plural) is not changed by words or phrases that come between the subject and the verb.
  3. Collective nouns (e.g., team, committee, family) can be singular or plural, depending on the context and intended meaning.
  4. Indefinite pronouns (e.g., everyone, anybody, each) typically take singular verbs, with some exceptions (e.g., none, all, some).
  5. In compound subjects joined by "and," the verb is usually plural.
  6. In compound subjects joined by "or" or "nor," the verb agrees with the subject closest to it.
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Special Cases and Exceptions

Titles of books, movies, and other works: Treat them as singular, regardless of their form.

Subjects that follow the verb: Ensure the verb agrees with the actual subject, not the noun or pronoun in the phrase that follows the verb.

Amounts of money, time, and distance: Treat them as singular when considered as a unit.

Subjects joined by "as well as," "along with," "besides," or "together with": The verb agrees with the first subject.

Subjects that are always plural: Some nouns (e.g., scissors, pants, glasses) are always treated as plural and require plural verbs.

Examples of Subject-Verb Agreement

  • The dog barks loudly. (singular subject, singular verb)
  • The students are studying for their exams. (plural subject, plural verb)
  • The committee has decided to postpone the meeting. (collective noun, singular verb)
  • Each of the contestants is required to submit an entry form. (indefinite pronoun, singular verb)
  • Neither the coach nor the players are satisfied with the result. (compound subject with "nor," verb agrees with the closest subject)

Common Questions and Answers

What is the difference between a singular and a plural verb?

A singular verb is used with a singular subject and does not end in -s or -es (e.g., "is," "was," "has"). A plural verb is used with a plural subject and typically ends in -s or -es (e.g., "are," "were," "have").

How do I determine if a collective noun is singular or plural?

Consider the intended meaning of the sentence. If the collective noun is acting as a single unit, use a singular verb. If the members of the collective noun are acting individually, use a plural verb.

What should I do when a phrase comes between the subject and the verb?

Ignore the intervening phrase and ensure that the verb agrees with the actual subject of the sentence. Do not be misled by nouns or pronouns within the intervening phrase.

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Subject-verb agreement is a crucial aspect of English grammar that ensures clarity and coherence in writing. By understanding the basic rules, special cases, and common exceptions, you can avoid errors and communicate your ideas effectively. Remember to identify the subject of the sentence and choose the appropriate verb form based on the subject's number and person.

Subject-Verb Agreement
Master the rules of subject-verb agreement for clear and correct writing
What is the correct verb form in this sentence: The number of students (is/are) increasing every year?
The correct verb form is 'is' because 'the number' is a singular subject, even though 'students' is plural. The verb should agree with the singular subject 'number.'

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