Today’s Grammar Time will cover a fairly simple grammar concept: subject-verb agreement. Basically, a singular subject gets a singular verb and a plural subject gets a plural verb, but there are a few other rules to keep in mind.
- Words between the subject and verb do not affect the agreement.
For example: “Mickey Mouse, one of Walt Disney’s first characters, is my favorite.”
Even though the phrase “one of Walt Disney’s first characters” ends with a plural noun, the verb agrees with the subject of the sentence, Mickey Mouse, which is singular.
- Indefinite pronouns (i.e. any, each, either, neither, or none) agree with the singular.
For example: “None is greater than Mickey Mouse.”
However, there are a few exceptions; the pronouns both, many, few, and several agree with the plural.
- In correlative constructions such as “either . . . or” or “not only . . . but also” the verb agrees with the part of the subject closest to the verb.
For example: “Either my parents or my brother is picking me up from Disneyland.”
Even though “my parents” is plural, “my brother” is closest to the verb and is singular. However, if the subject is a group combined with and, then the subject would be considered plural and the verb should agree accordingly.
For example: “My parents and my brother are picking me up from Disneyland.”
- In sentences that start with “there is” or “there are,” or for other inverted sentences, you need to find the subject later in the sentence and agree with that subject.
For example: “Here are my favorite Disney characters: Mickey Mouse, Belle, and Rapunzel.”
Since the sentence is listing off someone’s favorite characters (plural), the sentence should use a plural agreement.
Subjects vs Objects
- The verb always agrees with the subject and not the object or the phrase after “of.”
For example: “My greatest source of joy is happy endings.”
Even though “happy endings” is plural and is the the source of joy, the subject of the sentence is still “source of joy,” which is a singular subject.
That’s about it! There are some variances with subject/verb agreement between different dialects of English, but for American English, just remember to find the true subject and always make sure the verb agrees with it!