Subject-Verb Agreement

What is Subject-Verb Agreement?

The subject/s and verb/s in a sentence have both singular and plural forms. It is very important that both the forms match with each other to make the sentence meaningful. That is, they should be in agreement with each other, and this is called “Subject Verb Agreement”. Below we will go through various possible agreements between subject/s and verb/s with help of suitable examples.

Examples of Subject Verb Agreement

In Subject Verb Agreement, the singular or plural form of the Subject/s should match with the singular or plural form of the verb/s. For example, consider the below statement by a father on his son-

“My son likes to play football” - correct

In the statement – ‘son’ is the subject and is in singular form; therefore, ‘s’ is augmented to the verb ‘play’. It would be incorrect to say-

“My son like to play football” – Incorrect

Likewise, consider the same sentence for plural subjects, like-

“My sons like to play football. – Correct

Therefore, for plural subjects the‘s’ in the verb is omitted. Hence it would be incorrect to say-

“My sons likes to play football.” – Incorrect

Some more examples-

Oliver ride a horse. – Incorrect

Oliver rides a horse. – Correct

Oliver and friends goes to school. – Incorrect

Oliver and friends go to school. - Correct

Now that you have got an idea of Subject Verb Agreement, it’s time to move onto the rules of subject Verb Agreement.

Subject Verb Agreement Rules

As you already know that the nouns and verbs in present tense have their own singular and plural forms. But, some pronouns like – I, you and ‘to be’ verbs have their own rules. We will go through the rules of Subject Verb agreement for singular, plural, Special case (I, you) subjects and ‘to be’ verbs, one by one.

  1. a) For Singular Subjects/Nouns

Singular Subjects/Nouns must have singular verbs. Singular subjects don’t have‘s’ like- Oliver, Kitty, dog, Father, Friend etc, but singular verbs do have‘s’. Got through the following examples-

  • My friend plays guitar. (friend – singular; plays – singular verb)
  • My father rides a bike.
  • He cooks the dinner for family.
  • She calls him every day.
  • Teacher comes to the class early.

The subjects/Nouns in the above statements are in singular form; therefore, the base form of the verb is augmented with a -‘s’.

  1. b) For Plural Subjects/Nouns

While representing the Plural subjects, the verb remains in its base form (no‘s’ is added to the verb)-

  • Children write an essay. (children – plural; write – plural form of verb)
  • My friends go to the gym.
  • His parents ride on a bike.
  • Her friends love visiting park.
  • People use the public transport often.

The verbs in the above statement remains in their base (plural) forms – write, go, ride, love and use; since the subjects are plural.

  1. c) For Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns like – I, me and you, require plural verbs (verbs with no‘s’); but there is different rule for pronouns – he and she. It will be easier to understand the differences, by tabulating some verbs against these pronouns-

PRONOUN VERB (like) VERB (ride)
I like ride
you like ride
he likes rides
she likes rides
we like ride
they like ride

Note that – I and you, despite being singular pronouns, need verb in its plural form i.e. without‘s’.

  1. d) For ‘to be’ Verbs

Go through the following tables to understand the ‘Subject Verb Agreement’ with the verbs ‘to be’.

PRONOUN/NOUN PRESENT “to be” PAST “to be”
friend is was
friends are were
I am was
you are were
He/she is was
we are were
they are were

 

Types of Subject Verb Agreements

There is different type of situations where a specific rule is followed between the subject and the verb. We will go through all such types of ‘Subject Verb Agreement’ with help of suitable Examples.

a) Singular subjects joined by ‘or’ and ‘nor’

A compound subject formed by joining two singular subjects by either ‘or’ or ‘nor’; need singular verbs. For example, go through the following sentences-

  • Neither Oliver nor Sam likes cooking.
  • Either she or her mother cooks the dinner.
  • Neither dog nor cat loves bathing.
  • Either she or her friend plays violin.

The verbs in the above sentences takes the singular form (with‘s’) - likes, cooks, loves and plays.

Now considering the pronouns-

  • Neither I nor he knows French.
  • Either I or he knows French.

But if we interchange the position of subjects; the verb form also gets changed-

  • Neither he nor I know French.
  • Either he or I know French.

In the above cases, the verbs take the form of the closest subject.

b) Compound or Singular Subjects Joined by ‘and’ Are Always Plural

  • Oliver and Max ride on a bike together. - correct
  • Oliver and Max rides on a bike together. – Incorrect
  • Dogs and cats are a man’s best friends.- correct
  • Dogs and cats is a man’s best friend. – incorrect
  • Cars and bikes runs fast. – incorrect
  • Cars and bikes run fast. – correct
  • Pizza and burger are delicious. – correct
  • Pizza and burger is delicious. – incorrect

c) For Mixed Subjects in neither/nor, either/or situations

If the subjects are in mixed form, i.e. one subject is plural and the other is singular in neither/nor or either/or situations, then the verb agrees to the noun or pronoun closest to it. Go through the below examples-

  • Neither he nor my friends like basketball.

The subject closes to the verb – ‘like’ is plural- ‘friends’; therefore, the verb also takes the plural form – ‘like’. Now if we interchange the subjects, the verb will take the singular form, because the closest subject (he) is singular.

  • Neither my friends nor he likes basketball.

Some more examples-

  • Either the children or the teacher likes break.
  • Either the teacher or the children like cakes.
  • Neither his dog nor his cats sleep in night.
  • Neither his cats nor his dog sleeps in night.
  • Either the guests or the chief guest is arriving.
  • Either the chief guest or the guests are arriving.
  • Neither I nor my friends have a bike.
  • Neither my friend nor I have a bike. ( special case ‘I’)
  • Neither she nor her parents have a car.
  • Neither her parents nor she has a car.

d) When the Subject precedes ‘of’

When the subject is followed by ‘of’ as in – box of cookies, ocean of opportunities, bouquet of roses etc; the verb takes the form of the Subject. Go through the following example sentences, and carefully note the singular/plural forms of the subject and the corresponding changes in their verbs.

  • A bouquet of roses smells good.

If we change the subject to plural, the verb will also take the plural form-

  • Bouquets of roses smell good. ( ‘s’ in smells is omitted)

Some more examples-

  • People of my building talk politely.
  • The chairman of my building talks politely.
  • A bunch of roses is very enticing to watch.
  • Bunches of roses are very enticing to watch.
  • Group of tigers is very rare to see in wild.
  • Groups of dogs are a common sight in wild.

e) Subjects and Verbs with Phrases/Clauses in Between

Some sentences have the subjects and verbs separated by a clause or a phrase. The verb in such cases has to agree with the main subject. We will further understand this with help of examples.

  • The bucket with lots of fruits was taken.
  • The buckets with lots of fruits were taken.
  • Dog with long tail was friendly.
  • Dogs with long tail were friendly.
  • The glass as well as the cups breaks easily.
  • The glasses as well as the cups break easily.

From the examples it is evident that the verb takes the form of the main subject. i.e. - bucket – was; buckets – were; dog – was; dogs – were; glass – breaks; glasses – break.

f) Use Of ‘Does not’ and ‘Do Not’

‘Does not’ or ‘Doesn’t’ can only be used with singular subjects and ‘Do not’ or ‘don’t’ can only be used with plural subjects, as shown in the examples below-

  • Cat does not like water. (Note- verb remains in its base or plural form – like, without ‘s’)
  • Dogs do not sleep in night.
  • My father doesn’t watch TV.
  • My parents do not watch TV.
  • His friend doesn’t call him.
  • Her friends do not miss a chance to meet her.

g) Collective Nouns

Collective nouns take singular verbs, but if they are broken down into members, the verbs take the form of the main subject. For example consider the below sentences-

  • A group of lions is called pride. (is)
  • The cubs in the pride are looked after by the females. (are)
  • A group of children plays in the park each day. (plays)
  • Few children from the group play in the park each day. (play)
  • Our local school team wins cricket every season. (wins)
  • Players in our local school team win cricket every season. (win)
  • The Council of Ministers is led by the Prime Minister. (is)
  • The Ministers of the Council of Ministers are led by the Prime Minister. (are)

h) Special Words

Some special words sound like plural, but they need singular verbs. Such words are- each, everyone, everybody, anyone, somebody, nobody, someone, each one, neither, either, and anybody. All these words need singular verbs as shown in the sentences below-

  • Each of them is a scholar.
  • Every one of the children plays in the recess.
  • Anybody likes to be successful.
  • Everybody wants to be rich and famous.
  • Neither of them goes to school.
  • Each one of them is a good singer.

Each of the above sentences has singular forms of verbs or auxiliary verbs.

Exercises/Worksheet/Activities on Subject Verb Agreement with Answers

Fill In The Blanks Exercises/Worksheet/Activities On Subject Verb Agreement With Answers:

Complete the following sentences by choosing the correct words from the choices given. You can cross check your answers with the answers given in the end of the exercise.

1)  Singular Verbs related to singular nouns ________ be followed by‘s’.

  1. a) must
  2. b) may
  3. c) can not

2) Many plural verbs _______ need ‘s’.

  1. a) must
  2. b) don’t
  3. c) never

3) While representing plural subjects, ‘s’ is ________ to the verb.

  1. a) added
  2. b) omitted
  3. c) not added

4) My friend _________ to be on time for the meeting.

  1. a) like
  2. b) likes

5) My teachers ________ in the assembly together.

  1. a) pray
  2. b) prays

6) I _________ to walk in the rain.

  1. a) like
  2. b) likes

7) He ________ faster than his father.

  1. a) walk
  2. b) walks

8) _______ like to be cuddled.

  1. a) it
  2. b) they
  3. c) the cat

9) My brother and his friends _______ going to the party.

  1. a) is
  2. b) are

10) Oliver _________ earned enough to live decently.

  1. a) has
  2. b) have

11) My school and all the other schools ________ to improve their sports activities.

  1. a) needs
  2. b) need

12) My father and grandfather ________ going together.

  1. a) was
  2. b) were
  3. c) is

13) Oliver and Peter ________ to office together.

  1. a) ride
  2. b) rides
  3. c) goes

14) Neither Oliver nor Peter _______ a bike.

  1. a) ride
  2. b) rode
  3. c) rides

15) Either the Principal or the class teacher _______ coming for the lecture.

  1. a) is
  2. b) are

16) Neither she nor her class ________ part in the assembly.

  1. a) take
  2. b) takes

17) Either my parents or friend _______ calling me.

  1. a) is
  2. b) are

18) Neither the officer nor the subordinates ________ responding.

  1. a) was
  2. b) were

19) Either my cat or the dogs ________ milk.

  1. a) loves
  2. b) love

20) Box of chocolates ________ delicious.

  1. a) smell
  2. b) smells

21) The collection of coins ______ a good hobby.

  1. a) are
  2. b) is

22) Boxes of chocolates ________ delicious.

  1. a) smell
  2. b) smells

23) Collections of jewelry ________ on display.

  1. a) is
  2. b) were

24) The cat with lots of hairs _______ difficult to maintain.

  1. a) are
  2. b) is

25) The cats with lots of hairs _________ difficult to maintain.

  1. a) are
  2. b) is

26) The teacher as well as the children ______ to play.

  1. a) love
  2. b) loves

27) The soldiers __________ disobey orders.

  1. a) do not
  2. b) does not

28) An officer _______ like to be disobeyed.

  1. a) doesn’t
  2. b) don’t

29) The students of the Don Bosco school ________ good in academics.

  1. a) is
  2. b) are

30) The leader of the pride of lions _______ a healthy male.

  1. a) is
  2. b) are

Answers- 1)a, 2)b, 3)c, 4)b, 5)a, 6)a, 7)b, 8)b, 9)b, 10)a, 11)b, 12)b, 13)a, 14)c, 15)a, 16)b, 17)a, 18)b, 19)a, 20)b, 21)b, 22)a, 23)b, 24)b, 25)a, 26)b, 27)a, 28)a, 29)b, 30)a

Related Information:

Verb
Regular Verb
Irregular Verb
Modal Auxiliary Verbs
Intransitive Verbs
Transitive Verbs
Nonfinite Verb
Finite Verb
Stative Verb
Dynamic Verb
Auxiliary Verb
Lexical Verb