We often need to write sentences which contains only a subject and a verb. The subject could be a noun, a proper noun (name of a person or place) or an abstract noun.
Rules Involved in Subject-Verb Agreement
The basic rule is :
Singular Subject –> Singular Verb
Plural Subject –> Plural Verb
When we make a sentence, we tell something about a person or a thing. The part of the sentence which states the person or thing in the sentence is called the subject of the sentence and the part which gives us more information about the subject is called the predicate of the sentence.
A subject can be:
Singular – A book, an egg, a key
Plural – Women, boys, flowers
Uncountable – Sugar, water, air
Subject and Verb in Person and Number
The subject and verb must agree in person and number. If the subject is singular, the verb should also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb should also be plural.
i) Singular Subject –> Singular Verb
e.g. I am in the classroom.
ii) Plural Subject –> Plural Verb
e.g. They are in the classroom.
iii) When two or more singular subjects are joined together, plural verb is used.
e.g. Mrs and Mr Gupta are going to the market.
iv) When two subjects together express one idea, singular verb is used.
e.g. Earning your bread and butter is essential for living. (Bread and butter is symbolic and expresses one idea)
v) If the given nouns look like plurals (i.e. they end with ‘s’) but they are, in fact, singular nouns, then we use a singular verb.
e.g. Economics is my favourite subject.
vi) Words such as audience, congregation, crowd, group and family take a singular or plural verb depending upon the sentence, but it is always safe to use a plural verb with these nouns.
e.g. The family are our strongest support.
In some cases, you can also use a singular verb with a plural subject:
e.g. The audience is very excited.
The crowd is coming in huge numbers.
In these sentences, audience and crowd are plural subjects, but singular verb is used because they are treated as a group.
vii) Everybody, somebody, nobody, anybody and anyone take a singular verb.
e.g. Nobody is perfect in this world.
viii) Nouns joined by ‘and’ take a plural verb.
e.g. Sita and Gita are going to Mumbai.
In some cases, singular/verb is used if the subjects are treated as a single ideal/concept.
e.g. Earning your bread and butter is essential for living .
Tom and Jerry is a funny series.
ix) If the subjects are joined by ‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘either’, ‘neither’, the verb agrees with the subject nearest to it.
e.g. a) Neither he not his sister was there.
b) He or his friends are to be blamed.
x) The title of a book, play, story or a musical composition, even though plural, takes a singular verb.
e.g. The Three Musketeers is a very good book.
xi) When a plural noun comes between a singular subject and its verb, the verb agrees with the singular subject.
e.g. a) Each of the apples is juicy.
b) Neither of the men was a thief.
xii) If the words are joined to a singular subject by ‘with’, a singular verb is used.
e.g. The Prime Minister, with his cabinet colleagues, is supposed to be present.
xiii) If subjects are joined by ‘as well as’ , the verb must agree with the first subject, irrespective of whether it is singular or plural.
e.g. a) Ram , as well as Shyam, was missing.
b) My friends as well as my colleagues are going abroad.
xiv) Two nouns qualified by each and every, even though connected by ‘and’, require a singular verb.
e.g. a) Every boy and every girl was given vaccination.
b) Each of the hens was sick.
xv) None is singular but takes a plural/singular verb according to the sense involved in the sentence.
e.g. a) None were given a chance to speak.
b) I asked for a maid, but none was there.
xvi) When the plural noun is a proper name for some single object or some collective unit, it must be followed by a singular verb.
e.g. The United Nations is not an effective body for world peace.
xvii) Nouns like glasses (spectacles), pants, trousers, shoes, people, police, scissors always take a plural verb. Also , descriptive nouns like the rich, the blind, the guilty are always plural.
e.g. a) Your shoes are glossy.
But when used with ‘a pair of ‘, they are singular.
b) A pair of branded shoes is quite expensive these days.
xviii) Uncountable nouns like advice, news, media, stationery, weather, progress are singular and take a singular verb.
e.g. One must not offer advice unless asked.
xix) Nouns like news, physics, economics, measles, cards, aerobics are plural in form, but they are treated as singular.
e.g. Aerobics is a good exercise.
xx) A collective noun takes a singular verb when the collection is thought of as one whole. It takes a plural verb when the stress is on the individuals.
e.g. a) The cartel of oil supplying countries has submitted its report.
b) The cartel of oil supplying countries are divided over the issue.
xxi) A singular verb is used when a plural noun denotes some specific quantity or amount.
e.g. a) One-fifty rupees is too much for this bag.
b) Two-thirds of the city is in ruins.
Remember that a few nouns are always plural, even though they don’t end in ‘s’ and they always take a plural verb.
e.g. People have such strange ideas.
The police are baffled.
Quite a few common plurals don’t end in ‘s’.
e.g. The children are in bed.
My feet hurt.
Her teeth are rather uneven.
My hair are brown in colour.