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Subject-Verb Agreement

Within a sentence there are certain requirements for the relationship between the subject and the verb.


Note: The subject and verb must agree both in number and person.

We have surpassed our sales goal of one million dollars.

Here, the first person plural verb have agrees with its first person plural subject we.


Note that, ironically, third person singular verbs often end in s or es:


He seems to be fair.

Note: Intervening phrases and clauses have no effect on subject-verb agreement.

Only one of the President’s nominees was confirmed.

Here, the singular verb was agrees with its singular subject one. The intervening prepositional phrase of the President’s nominees has no effect on the number or person of the verb.


Collective nouns followed by intervening phrases are particularly easy to miss.


The content of the boxes is what she wants.
The meaning of her sentences is not clear.
A group of lions is called a "pride."

Be careful when a simple subject is followed by a phrase beginning with as well as, along with, together with, in addition to, or a similar expression. Be sure to make the verb agree with the simple subject, not with a noun in the intervening phrase.


Our Senator, along with most congressmen, opposes the bill.

Here, the singular verb opposes agrees with its singular subject Senator. The intervening phrase along with most congressmen has no effect on the number or person of the verb.

Note: When the subject and verb are reversed, they still must agree in both number and person.

Attached are copies of the contract.

Here, the plural verb are attached agrees with its plural subject copies. The sentence could be rewritten as

Copies of the contract are attached.

Although it may seem obvious that when reversing the normal order of the subject and the verb their agreement must be preserved, this obvious error is easy to miss.

Example (wrong)

Attached to the email is the graphic file and the agreement.

This ungrammatical sentence sounds natural perhaps because its error is committed so often. The compound subject of the sentence is the graphic file and the agreement, which must take a plural verb:

Attached to the email are the graphic file and the agreement.

With the natural order of the subject first and then the verb in this sentence, one would be unlikely to mistakenly choose a singular verb:

The graphic file and the agreement are attached to the email.

Be careful when an inverted subject verb order is introduced by construction such as there is, there are, here is, here are. In these constructions, the actual subject follows the verb.


There is much disagreement between the parties.

The word there introduces the singular verb is, which agrees with the singular subject of the sentence disagreement.


In these constructions, it is tempting to mistakenly use a singular verb before the plural subject.

Example (wrong)

There is a wallet and a key on the dresser.

The compound (plural) subject of this sentence is a wallet and a key. It requires a plural verb:

There are a wallet and a key on the dresser.

This error occurs often in daily speech because the verb has to be chosen before we fully form the subject in our minds. Since the first part of the compound subject a wallet is singular, we naturally introduce it with the singular verb is.

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