Subject-verb Agreement: A verb must agree with its subject in number and person, i.e., the verb should be of the same number and person as the subject.
- Arun likes sweets. – Arun (singular subject), likes (singular verb)
- Children like sweets. – Children (plural subject), likes (plural verb)
Rules of Subject Verb Agreement
Two or more singular subjects joined by ‘and’ take a plural verb;
e.g., He and his brother were absent.
Note the following:
- When two subjects are regarded as representing one idea, then the verb is singular;
e.g., Slow and steady wins the race.
- If two singular nouns refer to the same person or thing, the verb must be singular;
e.g., The poet and philosopher is dead. [Here ‘poet’ and ‘philosopher’ refer to the same person.]
If two singular nouns joined by ‘and’ are preceded by ‘each’ or ‘every’, the verb is singular;
e.g., Every man and every woman in the village was terrified.
Two or more singular subjects connected by ‘or, nor’, either ………….. or, neither ………….. nor, take a singular verb;
e.g., Either Amit or Raman is the culprit.
Note: when one of the nouns or pronouns joined by ‘or, nor’ is in the singular and the other on the plural, the subject should be placed near the verb;
e.g., Rehan or his brothers are to blame.
If two subjects joined by, ‘or, nor’ are of different persons, the verb agrees in person with the subject nearest to it;
e.g., Either you or he is telling a lie.;
If two nouns are joined by ‘with or as well as’ the verb agrees with the first noun, i.e. if the first noun is singular, the verb must be singular, even if the second noun is plural;
e.g., Raman as well as his friend has won the prize.
A collective noun takes a singular or in plural verb according to the sense;
The jury were divided in their opinions. – here ‘the jury’ refers to the members individually.
The jury has elected its leader. – here ‘the jury’ stands for a ‘body’ as a whole one entity.
‘Either, neither, each, every one, many a’ must be followed by a verb in the singular;
- Either of the two candidates is suitable.
- Each one of these men is reliable.
When a plural noun denotes some specific quantity or amount considered as a whole, the verb is generally singular;
e.g., One lakh rupees is a good sum. (not are)
Similarly, with titles of books and names of sciences
e.g., The Arabian Nights is an interesting book.
A relative pronoun always agrees in number and person with its antecedent;
e.g., I am a woman who works (not work) for children’s welfare.
Errors of Proximity (nearness):
Often the verb is made to agree in number with a noun near to it instead of its proper subject. This should be avoided:
The behaviour of the children was excellent. [Here the verb will agree with ‘behaviour’ not children]
The quality of the mangoes was (not were) good.
Some sentences begin with ‘there’ or ‘here’. In these sentences the subject comes after the verb and the verb agrees with the subject:
- Here is a cat.
- There is one child hiding behind the door.