Subject-Verb Agreement

When writing a sentence, we want to take care to use the same plural or singular tense and not confuse our readers. This is called "subject-verb agreement". Take this two sentences, for example, the first one uses correct subject-verb agreement, while the second sentence makes an error in number agreement. Can you see the difference?

1. The pants are too small for my brother.
2. The pants is to small for my brother. The noun "pants" is plural, so the verb needs to be plural, too. "Are" is plural, but "is" is singular, so "pants are" is the correct use of the noun and verb together. Read this resources for more information on subject-verb agreement.

"The basic rule of sentence agreement is simple: A subject must agree with its verb in number. Number means singular or plural". The subject may be either singular or plural, and the verb selection should match the subject. The task sounds simple, but it's not always easy to make the subject and verb match without some thought. Subject-verb agreement errors are common errors many beginning writers make, and they are highly-stigmatized errors, which means people will judge you for them.

Here are some tips to help you avoid subject-verb agreement errors.

  1. When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.
Suzy and her friend are missing the best movie ever!
  1. When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by or, use a singular verb.
The pen or the pencil is in the drawer, my purse, my book bag, or perhaps, my pencil pouch.
  1. Do not be confused by a phrase that comes between your subject and your verb.
Russell Wilson, as well as the rest of the Seattle Seahawks, is ready for the game against the Green Bay Packers.
  1. Collective nouns can be tricky. Sometimes, they take a singular verb, and sometimes they take a plural verb. It depends upon how they are being used. Be sure to refer to the Collective Nouns page for more information and examples.
  1. Fractions can be especially tricky, but the rule is that fractions should be treated as singular or plural, depending upon the noun they are referring to.
Two-thirds of the zombies in "The Walking Dead" move slowly. The rest can apparently sprint.

Two-thirds of your cake was eaten before you got home.

Source: Excelsior Online Writing Lab,
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Last modified: Sunday, January 8, 2023, 2:00 PM