Subject-Verb Agreement

-Amanda Sampson-

“Everyone in the class are responsible for emailing their Grammar-Gossip blog post on time.”

“This dog jump a long distance.”

“The math club were the best in the state.”

“Either are okay.”

“There is some concerns upon the matter.”

Do any of these statements sound strange to you? Perhaps it was just the slip of the tongue or an unawareness on the matter, but each of these phrases lack subject-verb agreement. When making a sentence, many different factors go into creating a phrase that correctly connects the right noun to the right verb.

When to Use Plural Verbs vs. Singular Verbs:

Verbs are used to connect a noun, or subject, to an action. In order to do that correctly, the subject must not lose track of its stance as either a plural or singular noun. These examples are typically the simplest of them all because they “flow” in a smooth way.

When two or more nouns or pronouns are used in a sentence, a plural verb is used:

He and his brothers are going to the basketball game.

When only one noun or pronoun is used, a singular verb is used:

She wants the Jason Derulo concert ticket.

pirates are

Okay that is simple, but when does it start to get tricky?

In some sentences, it is difficult to distinguish how many subjects are being used.

For example, the phrases, “My friend and my boyfriend” and “My friend and boyfriend” have two completely different meanings. In the first example, ‘my’ is used twice, suggesting there are two subjects. In the second example, the lack of distinction suggests that there is only one subject, thus the friend and boyfriend must be the same person. Just for comparison, here are sentence examples of each:

My friend and my boyfriend have arrived at the airport.

My friend and boyfriend has arrived at the airport.

Another tricky example would be the use of phrases which come in between the use of a subject and action.

For example: All of the cars, especially the red one, are extremely fast.

The phase, “especially the red one” should not determine the verb tense used. Instead, the first subject used always determines the verb used after.


Are there any exceptions to subject-verb agreement?

English is a weird language, so of course there are going to be exceptions. In some cases, different words carry different connotations which then changes the word’s subject as singular or plural.

One of the most common examples of this is the use of the word ‘dollars’. When referring to the amount, dollars would be accompanied by a singular verb. However, when referring to the physical dollar, dollars would be accompanied by a plural verb.

For example: Two dollars is all I need for two cans of Arnold Palmer.

While, Dollars are used in the United States as a form of currency.

Also, if any two nouns fall under the category of ‘one idea,’ then the verb tense must be singular. For example:

Peanut butter and jelly is all I need in the morning

is a valid sentence because ‘peanut butter and jelly’ is considered one idea, not two separate subjects.

Hopefully these examples will help you in your future writing!


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