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Arts & Letters Daily

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Subject/Verb Agreement - Level II

Subject/Verb Agreement

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Text and voice – click HERE

Notes

There must be agreement between the subject (noun or pronoun) and the predicate verb

of a sentence.

 

Person and Number

  • Agreement in person and number

If the subject is singular the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural the

verb must be plural. If the subject is in the first person the verb must be in first

person. If the subject is in second or third person the verb must agree.

Example: John knows the way to school. (The subject ‘John’ is third person singular

and the verb ‘knows’ is third person singular.)

Incorrect example: John know the way to school. (The verb ‘know’ is in the first

person singular. To be correct the third person singular is needed to be in agreement

with the subject ‘John’ which is third person singular.)

  • Agreement in person and number with compound subject

When the parts of a compound subject are connected with ‘and’, the subject is plural

and requires a plural verb. When the parts of a compound subject are connected with

‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘either – or’, ‘neither – nor’ a singular verb is required because the

sentence means one or the other, not both.

Example: Mary and John are in the same class. (‘Mary and John’ are the two parts of

the compound subject. Therefore with a third person plural subject, the third person

plural verb ‘are’ is required.)

Example: Neither Mary nor John was at school yesterday. (The third person singular

verb ‘was’ is required to agree with the singular subject because the sentence is

referring to one or the other persons not both. When the compound subject ‘Mary and

John’ are connected with ‘neither – nor’ a singular verb is required.)

Example: Either that boy or those men were responsible for the accident. (The words

‘boy’ (singular) and ‘men’ (plural) make up the compound subject. Therefore the

verb must agree with the subject closest to it. The word ‘men’ is closest so a third

person plural form of the auxiliary verb ‘be’ (were) is used with the main verb

‘responsible’).

  • Agreement in person and number with collective nouns

Collective nouns represent a group or collection of objects and are considered as a

unit. Thus they require a singular verb unless the individual items within the unit are

considered. Then a plural verb is required.

Example: The troop of boy scouts is cleaning up the park. (The collective noun

‘troop’ requires a singular verb ‘is cleaning’)

  • Agreement in person and number with indefinite pronouns

There are singular and plural indefinite pronouns. The singular pronouns require

singular verbs while the plural pronouns require plural verbs.

Singular Indefinite Pronouns: anyone, anybody, each, either, everybody, neither, no

one, nobody, one, somebody

Example: Each of your bags will be inspected at the airport. (The singular indefinite

pronoun ‘each’ requires a singular verb ‘will be inspected’)

Plural Indefinite Pronouns: both, few, many, several

Example: Both were excited to win the contest. (The plural indefinite pronoun ‘both’

requires a plural verb ‘were excited’)

Indefinite Pronouns can be singular or plural depending on the meaning of the

sentence: any, all, none, some

Example: The team will split for traveling. Some are traveling by car. (In this case

‘some’ means more than one member and therefore requires a plural auxiliary verb

‘are traveling’)

Example: Some of the candy is tasty. (In this case ‘some’ is a singular indefinite

pronoun that refers to the collective noun ‘candy’ and therefore requires a singular

verb ‘is’.)

Assignment

Underline the correct verb in each sentence.

1. Measles (are, is) mostly a childhood disease.

2. Some of the guests (will be arriving, had been arriving) soon, so we better (got, get) ready.

3. (Were, Was ) any of these children going to summer camp?

4. The dog (lies, lays) by the back door waiting for his master to (came, come) home.

5. The dog (has laid, has lain) by the door for hours.

6. I always (sits, sit) in the rocking chair when I (tell, told) stories.

7. The school principal (comes, come) here with her staff.

8.The contact cement (shall set, will set) in about four hours.

9. The sun (rises, rise) in the east just before seven o’clock.

10.  Do not (raises, raise) your voice because the baby (is sleeping, are sleeping).

11.  Janet (forget, forgot, forgotten) her cell phone this morning.

12.  The children have (forget, forgot, forgotten) their books many times.

13.  Don’t  (forget, forgot, forgotten) to bring your lunches tomorrow.

14.  Mary always  (forgets, forgot, forgotten) her homework when I (forget, forgot, forgotten) to remind her.

15.  Richard (lose, lost) his driver’s license because he (drive, drove, driven) recklessly.

16.  When I (play, played) tennis years ago, I (expect, expected) to win.

17.  The Stars and Stripes (flies, fly) overhead.

18.  My family and I (go, went, gone) hiking most weekends  last year.

19.  Neither the men nor the boys (was, were) responsible for the error.

20.  Either Bill or Len (come, comes) every day to feed the animals. Both (is, are) dependable.

Answer Key

Subject/Verb Agreement

1. Measles (are, is) mostly a childhood disease.

Answer: Is

2. Some of the guests (will be arriving, had been arriving) soon, so we better (got, get) ready.

Answer: will be arriving; get

3. (Were, Was ) any of these children going to summer camp?

Answer: Were

4. The dog (lies, lays) by the back door waiting for his master to (came, come) home.

Answer: lies; come

5. The dog (has laid, has lain) by the door for hours.

Answer: lain

6. I always (sits, sit) in the rocking chair when I (tell, told) stories.

Answer: sit; tell

7. The school principal (comes, come) here with her staff.

Answer: comes

8. The contact cement (shall set, will set) in about four hours.

Answer: will set

9. The sun (rises, rise) in the east just before seven o’clock.

Answer: rises

10. Do not (raises, raise) your voice because the baby (is sleeping, are sleeping).

Answer: raise; is sleeping

11, Janet (forget, forgot, forgotten) her cell phone this morning.

Answer: forgot

12, The children have (forget, forgot, forgotten) their books many times.

Answer: forgotten

13, Don’t  (forget, forgot, forgotten) to bring your lunches tomorrow.

Answer: forget

14, Mary always  (forgets, forgot, forgotten) her homework when I (forget, forgot, forgotten) to remind her.

Answer: forgets; forget

15, Richard (lose, lost) his driver’s license because he (drive, drove, driven) recklessly.

Answer: lost; drove

16, When I (play, played) tennis years ago, I (expect, expected) to win.

Answer: played; expected

17. The Stars and Stripes (flies, fly) overhead.

Answer: Verb – flies

18. My family and I (go, went, gone) hiking most weekends  last year.

Answer: went

19. Neither the men nor the boys (was, were) responsible for the error.

Answer: were

20. Either Bill or Len (come, comes) every day to feed the animals. Both (is, are) dependable.

Answer: comes; are