Subject-verb agreement is one of the fundamental rules of grammar that every writer and editor should know. This rule is essential in ensuring that our sentences are clear, concise, and grammatically correct. In this article, we`ll be discussing ten rules on subject-verb agreement that you need to know when writing or editing.
1. Make sure that the verb agrees with the subject:
The subject is the noun or pronoun that performs the action of the sentence. The verb is the action word that shows what the subject is doing. The verb must always agree with the subject in number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third).
Example: The cat runs. (singular subject and verb)
2. Use singular verbs for singular subjects and plural verbs for plural subjects:
A singular subject takes a singular verb while a plural subject takes a plural verb. This rule is straightforward, but it can be confusing when we`re dealing with collective nouns or nouns that look like plurals but are singular.
Example: The team is playing. (singular subject and verb)
3. Avoid subject-verb disagreement when using compound subjects:
When we use a compound subject (two or more subjects joined by “and”), we use a plural verb.
Example: Tom and Jerry are going to the park. (plural subject and verb)
4. Singular subjects connected by “or” or “nor” take a singular verb:
When we use “or” or “nor” to connect two singular subjects, we use a singular verb.
Example: Neither the dog nor the cat likes to swim. (singular subject and verb)
5. Use a plural verb when connecting a singular and plural subject with “or” or “nor”:
When we use “or” or “nor” to connect a singular and plural subject, we use a plural verb.
Example: Neither the dog nor the cats like to swim. (plural subject and verb)
6. Don`t confuse subjects with prepositional phrases:
Prepositional phrases can be confusing when it comes to subject-verb agreement. The subject of the sentence is always the noun or pronoun before the preposition.
Example: The book on the table is mine. (singular subject and verb)
7. When the subject is a collective noun, use a singular or plural verb depending on the context:
Collective nouns (such as team, group, family) can be singular or plural depending on the context. If we`re referring to the group as a unit, we use a singular verb. If we`re referring to the individuals in the group, we use a plural verb.
Example: The family is going on vacation. (singular verb referring to the family as a unit)
The family are going to different destinations. (plural verb referring to the individuals in the family)
8. Don`t be fooled by intervening expressions:
Intervening expressions (such as “along with,” “as well as,” “together with”) can be confusing when it comes to subject-verb agreement. Ignore these expressions and focus on the subject.
Example: The dog, along with the cats, is sleeping. (singular subject and verb)
9. When using “each,” “every,” “either,” or “neither,” use a singular verb:
These words are always singular and require a singular verb.
Example: Each of the students is studying hard. (singular subject and verb)
10. Use a plural verb when the subject is a collective noun that can be both singular and plural:
Some collective nouns (such as audience, committee, staff) can be both singular and plural. When these nouns are used as the subject of the sentence, we use a plural verb.
Example: The staff are working hard to meet the deadline. (plural subject and verb)
Subject-verb agreement is a basic rule of grammar that we need to follow to ensure that our sentences are clear and coherent. By following these ten rules, you can avoid common errors and improve the overall quality of your writing. Always remember to check for subject-verb agreement when editing your work, and don`t hesitate to ask for help if you`re unsure about a sentence.