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Introduction
16 Aug 2021

Subject – verb agreement is the most important topic of English grammar.

The agreement between the subject of a sentence and the verb form of the sentence is a must condition for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

Note: Here by verb, we mean to say Finite Verbs only. A sentence can have any number of non-finite verbs but there must be a finite verb which has to be in agreement with the subject (noun or pronoun).

Example: Dancing, singing and drinking, we celebrated the New Year’s Eve with a lot of enthusiasm.

In the above sentence, there is only one finite verb and that is - Celebrated.

Dancing, singing and drinking are non-finite verbs.

This topic contains the various rules to be followed while making sentences.

Basics of Subject and Verb Agreement

The basis of Subject and Verb agreement is -

  • If subject is singular, verb is singular.
  • If subject is plural, the verb is plural.

Note:

  • Noun + s/es  make a Noun Plural.
    • Like - boys and girls
  • Verb + s/es Make a Verb singular.
    • Like - laughs and dances
  • Words end in -'ce' are noun. (Example: Advice)
  • Words end in -'se' are verb. (Example: Advise)

Rules for Subject and Verb Agreement

Rule 1

What will be the verb after a country or city?

Well, if you have this doubt then this rule will help you solve it.

  • If you are using the name of a country or city respectively in a sentence, the verb will be singular.
  • And If it means any team, then it will take Plural verb.

Example:

  • Let’s take an example of – India
  • If it means a country -
    • India is seventh largest country of the world. (Verb here is Singular)
  • If it means a team -
    • India have won the innings. (Verb here is Plural)

Tip: You can learn this rule by thinking like – Country or city must be united so it takes singular verb and there could be division in a team so it takes plural verb.

 

Rule 2

If two nouns or pronouns are connected by ‘and’, we always use plural verb.

Example:

  • Ram and Mohan are in the same soccer team.
  • Suresh and Ramesh have started a new venture.

Note: Keep in the mind the rule of sequence of pronouns and exceptions.

Example:

  • Wrong: I and you have performed well in the class test. (x)
  • Correct: You and I have performed well in the class test.

Exception for Rule 2:

There are Idioms like:

Bread and butter, Time and tide, sum and substance, honour and glory, etc.

When idioms like these are used in a sentence then the verb is singular always, as idioms mostly represents a singular subject.

Example:

  • Brick and stone has been booked for the new house.
  • Rise and fall is a part of everyone’s life.
  • Bread and butter is the basic part of living.
  • Sum and substance of this play deals with human emotions.
  • Honour and glory is the most important part of one’s life.

Note: Attention must be given to idiom – Bread and butter.

  • Bread and Butter
    • If it means Amenities – Verb will be singular.
    • If it means Breakfast – Verb will be Singular.
    • If they mean articles – Verb will be plural.
    • Bread and Butter are in the fridge.

Rule 3

Verb will be according to nearest noun or pronoun, if the following conjunctions are used:

  • Either - or
  • Neither – nor
  • Not only – but also
  • Or
  • Nor

Example:

  • Not only the students but also the class teacher is not interested in the play.
  • Not only the class teacher but also the students are not interested in the play.

Rule 4

Verb will be according to the first noun or pronoun, if the following conjunctions are used:

  • With, alongwith, as well as, in addition to, and not, but, except, like, unlike, etc.

Example:

  • Rohan with his friends is going for picnic.
  • Students with their class teacher are going for trekking.
  • He as well as I is working hard for the welfare of the society.

The use of not only- but also is the given question is wrong. Keep the structure of it in mind.

Q) Not only he plays but also runs well. (Wrong)

Correct: Not only plays he but also runs well.

Explanation: to add emphasis in a sentence, we can use not only at the beginning of a clause. When we do this, we invert the subject and the verb.

Example: Not only was it raining the whole day at the wedding but also the band was late.

 

Rule 5

A number of + Plural Noun + Plural Verb + their (possessive adjective)

The number of + Plural Noun + Singular Verb + his (possessive adjective)

The percentage of can take both Uncountable nouns and plural nouns and take Singular verb.

Example:

  • A number of players from every corner of the country have participated in the cricket championship.
  • The number of students taking part in Kabbaddi is increasing every year.
  • The percentage of impurities in every day diet is increasing.

Rule 6

If Most is equivalent to a noun, we never use ‘the’ before it.

Example:

  • Wrong:He says the most of the books he read is of sci-fi. (x)
  • Correct: He says most of the books he read is of sci-fi.

Rule 7

A many, A great many, A good many + Plural Noun + Plural Verb

Many a/an + Singular Noun + Singular Verb

Example:

  • A great many entrepreneurs who are doing so well now a days have not even attended high school.
  • Many a car is defaulted now a days.

Rule 8

When two nouns are connected using preposition each must be singular. The construction will take singular verb.

Explanation:

  • Page after page. (not – pages after pages)
  • Ship after ship
  • Word after word.

Example:

  • Page after page has been read by me.

Rule 9

Each

Using ‘Each’ in a sentence can modify the subject. The verb will be according to the subject.

Example:

  • We each have to understand our role in the team.
  • Each of us has a property of our own.

Rule 10

1. If two nouns are connected using a conjunction and only one article is used before the first noun, then the verb will be singular.

  • Article + Noun + and + Noun + Verb (Singular)

Example:

  • A cricketer and politician is hosting a comedy show.

2. If two nouns are connected using a conjunction and both have an article before them, then the verb will be plural.

  • Article + Noun + and + article + Noun + Verb (Plural)

Example:

  • A cricketer and a comedian have started a new venture.

Rule 11

1. If two articles of a noun are connected using a conjunction and only one article is placed before the first article then the verb will be singular.

  • Article + Adjective + and + Article + Noun + Verb (Singular)

Example:

  • A black and white cat is crossing the road.

2. If two articles of a noun are connected using a conjunction and both have their own article then the verb will be plural.

  • Article + Adjective + and + Article + Adjective + Noun + Verb (Plural)

Example:

  • A black and a white dress have been purchased by me.

Rule 12

More than

If we use ‘More than’ in a sentence then verb will be according to the noun of the sentence.

Explanation: If noun is singular, verb will also be singular and if noun is plural verb will also be plural.

Example:

  • More than one poem is readable
  • More than two poems are readable.
  • More poems than one are readable.

Rule 13

Using article ‘The’ before an adjective represents the whole community, so it takes plural verb after it.

Explanation:

  • The + adjective is equivalent to Community and takes Plural Verb.
  • The + Adjective = Community + Verb (Plural)

Example: The Rich = People

  • A/The + Singular Countable Noun = Community + Singular Verb.

Example:

  • You should not laugh at the poor.

Rule 14

This rule is related to words – Following and Undersigned.

‘Following’ and ‘Undersigned’ in a sentence are equivalent to ‘There’

It takes plural verb always.

Example:

  • Following are the rules you should remember. (remember not Followings)
  • Undersigned are the terms and conditions you have to follow.

Rule 15

Wages and Means

  • If Wages means money, then it takes Plural Verb

Example: His wages are not enough to live in a city.

  • If Wages means Result, then it takes Singular Verb

Example: The wages of bravery is honour.

  • Means always take Plural verb.
  • Means + Plural Verb

Example:Means of living in a metro city are very high.

Rule 16

If we select single noun or pronoun from multiple, we use singular verb and singular possessive adjective.

Explanation:

  • (Either, neither, each, anyone, none, everyone, one, some, any) + Of + (Plural Noun or Pronoun) + (Singular Verb) + His (Possessive adjective)

Example:

  • None of them helps the poor.
  • Everyone of them has done his homework.