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Subject–Verb Agreement

A sentence has the following properties:

it contains a subject

it contains a verb

it expresses a complete thought
 

Example :

The sentence “Japan prospers” has a subject: “Japan”; a verb: “prospers”; and it conveys a complete thought or idea that makes sense.


Most sentences also have an object (receiver of the action); example, in the sentence “Ram ate a Mango,” the object is “mango.”


According to the concept, the verb in a sentence should be in agreement with the subject.


Common rules and errors

Rule 1: The verb in a sentence should agree with the subject. If a subject is singular, verb should also be singular. And if the subject is plural, verb should also be plural.


Let us see some of the examples:

 

 

Incorrect usage

Correct usage

Explanation

There is no rooms vacant.

There are no rooms vacant.

The subject rooms is plural; therefore, the verb should be plural (i.e., are).

He like movies.

He likes movies.

The subject he is in the second person, and is singular; therefore, the verb should also be in the second person, and be singular (i.e., likes).

Neither Raman nor Harsh
were there.

Neither Raman nor Harsh
was there.

“Harsh” is singular, so the verb should be also.

Neither Raman nor the others
was there.

Neither Raman nor the
others were there.

“Others” is plural, so the verb should be also.

There are a variety of pens.

There is a variety of pens.

“Variety” is singular.

Here is wealth and beauty.

Here are wealth and beauty.

“Wealth and beauty” is plural.

He is one of the best officers
who has graduated from here.

He is one of the best officers who have graduated from here.

“Doctors” is plural, so the verb should be also
(i.e., “have”).

All of the team were there.

All of the team was there.

“Team” is singular, so the verb should be also.

All the players was present.

All the players were present.

“Players” is plural, so the verb should be also.


Rule 2: Pronouns should agree with their nouns in terms of (a) number (singular or plural), (b) person (first, second, or third), and (c) gender.

 

Incorrect usage

Correct usage

Explanation

Did everyone remember their job?

Did everyone remember his job?

Everyone is singular, so the pronoun should as well be singular.

It was them who did it.

It was they who did it.

The nominative case (I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they, who) is used following some form of the verb to be.

If I were him, I would go.

If I were he, I would go.

As above.

It is me.

It is I.

As above.

Whom will rule country?

Who will rule country?

 

Who did you give it to?

Whom did you give it to?

“You gave it to he” does not sound right, while “you gave it to him” does.

He was in the same school as us.

He was in the same school as we.

Expand the sentence: “He was in the same school as we were in.”

It belongs to he and I.

It belongs to him and me.

The objective case of pronoun (i.e., me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them, whom) is used as the object of a preposition, such as “to”.

Sama hired he.

Sama hired him.

The objective case of pronoun (i.e., me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them, whom) is used as the object of a verb.

He is as busy as me.

He is as busy as I.

Expand the sentence: “He is as busy as I am busy, not
“he is as busy as me am busy.”


However, there are following exceptions and expansions to this basic rule.

  • Exception 1
    The rule is not applicable to the sentences in the past and future tense. It means agreement applies only when the sentence is in present tense.

Example :
1(a) He drove to Gurgaon yesterday. (Past tense)
1(b) They drove to Gurgaon yesterday. (Past tense)

It can be seen that the subject is singular in 1(a) and plural in 1(b), however the verb used in each case in same.
2(a) They will go to watch a movie. (Future tense)
2(b) He will go to watch a movie. (Future tense)

It can be seen that the subject is singular in 2(b) and plural in 2(a), however the verb used in each case in same.

  • Exception 2
    No distinction is made in 1st person singular and 1st person plural.

Example :

  1. I pray everyday.
  2. We pray everyday.
  • Exception 3
    Case of I and You – I and You both take a verb “do not” (which is plural in nature) and not “does not” (which is singular in nature).

Example :

  1. I do not smoke.
  2. You do not smoke.
     
    However, with ‘He’, which is 3rd person singular, “does not” is used.
  3. He does not smoke.
  • Exception 4
    When two nouns or pronouns are joined with words like ‘including, as well as along with, together with, except’ etc then verb agrees to the first subject.

Example :

  1. Sam along with his family members is going.
  2. My teachers and my best friend is invited to my wedding party.


Case 1 There are some nouns that might appear plural but they are actually singular, and hence, verb should be used accordingly.

  1. Names of diseases, sports and field of study.
     
     

    Example
    (a) Diabetes is a common disease. (other Example: mumps, arthiritis etc.)

    (b) Aerobics provides receration. (other Example: athletics, olympics etc)

    (c) Mathematics is an interesting subject. (other Example: politics, civics etc)

  2. Period of time, sum of money and unit of distance is singular.
     
     

    Example :

    1. One lakh rupee is a big amount.
    2. Five kms is a long distance to be covered by foot.
    3. Two hours is a long time to wait.


    Hundred Rupees is kept on the table – Here hundred rupees is a sum of rupees.

    Let us look at Another Example:

    1. Rupees are deteriorating. This is also correct because we are not talking about ‘a sum of rupee’, but of rupees in holistic sense.
    2. Dollars are inferior to pounds in value.

  3. Expansion 1
    Collective nouns are considered singular (for example–team, family etc.) and they take singular verb. However, nouns of magnitude take plural verb.
     
     

    Example :

    1. The jury was unanimous in its decision.
    2. The jury were divided in their decision. (because it shows division)
  4. Expansion 2
    When subject contains both singular and plural noun tied by or/not, the verb should agree with the part of the subject nearer to it.
     
     

    Example :

    1. He or his friends have done it.
    2. Has he or his friends done it?
  • Expansion 3
    When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns connected by and, we use a plural verb.
     
     

    Example :

    1. The principal and the secretary are out of town.
    2. The principle and secretary is out of town.

    [Here, the absence of an article ‘the’ before ‘secretary’ tells us that it is only one person acting as a principal and secretary]

  1. Expansion 4
    Each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, nobody, somebody, someone and no one are singular and require a singular verb.
     
     

    Example :

    1. Everybody is invited.
    2. Somebody is there.
  • Expansion 5
    When a subject consisting of two singular nouns connected by ‘and’ refers to the same idea or outcome, a singular verb is used.
     
     

    Example :
    Bread and butter is what I eat.

    Time and tide waits for none.





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