You are on page 1of 3

©

David Rickert http://www.davidrickert.com


SUBJECT VERB AGREEMENT
Singular subjects require singular verbs and plural subjects require plural verbs. This rule
is easy to grasp, but several situations can cause problems.

The first problem occurs when words come between the subject and the verb:

Incorrect: Pancakes with syrup sounds yummy.

Syrup is closest to the verb, but the subject is actually pancakes. Since pancakes is plural, it
requires the plural form of the verb. Therefore, the sentence should be:

Pancakes with syrup sound yummy.

The indefinite pronouns anyone, everyone, someone, no one, nobody, neither, either are
singular and always require singular verbs.

Everyone has to take the driving test. No one is allowed to skip it.

Each is also singular and is particularly troublesome because a prepositional phrase can
follow it.

Each of my parents wear glasses.

While and joins two words, nor and or do not combine. When using or and nor, the word
closest to the subject determines whether or not the verb is singular or plural.

Neither Sam nor his friends take geometry. Either my sisters or my dad is picking me
up.

Collective nouns like group, committee, and team, which imply more than one person, are
singular.

The group studies for the chemistry test.

There are several other exceptions to the rules for subject-verb agreement, but these are
the most common problems you will encounter.

Exercises: Correct the subject-verb agreement problems in the following sentences.

1. The girls who left the classroom is headed to the gym.


2. Each of the trees drop their leaves in the fall.
3. Everyone are going to take swim lessons.
4. The runner, who spent the entire summer training for races, are going to win first
place.
5. Neither potato chips nor ice cream sound good for a snack.
6. Either your parents or I needs to go to the store for groceries.
7. Anyone who wants to play football with the rest of us need to meet by the
flagpole.
8. Your brothers and your sister likes to read mysteries.
9. The monkeys who live in the zoo enjoys the daily visitors.
10. The problems on that assignment requires a great deal of time to complete.

© David Rickert http://www.davidrickert.com


SUBJECT VERB AGREEMENT KEY
First off, tricky subject-verb agreement is a great lesson on the shortcomings of grammar
check programs on software. The program used to create this book did not catch many of
the errors in the examples and exercises.

There are many, many rules and exceptions to subject-verb agreement, and students can
easily become confused when the study of grammar becomes a lengthy list of items to
memorize. Teachers are encouraged to study their students’ writing to find the most
common examples and focus on those. The examples highlighted in the worksheet cover the
most likely errors, but a more thorough approach may require additional rules, such as
those that cover subjects in school (Mathematics is singular, for instance.)

The subject and the verb below are in bold in the answers.

1. The girls who left the classroom are headed to the gym.

2. Each of the trees drops their leaves in the fall.

3. Everyone is going to take swim lessons.

4. The runner, who spent the entire summer training for races, is going to win first place.

5. Neither potato chips nor ice cream sounds good for a snack. (Neither potato chips nor ice
cream is the complete subject, but ice cream is closest to the verb.)

6. Either your parents or I need to go to the store for groceries. (Either your parents or I is
the complete subject, but I is closest to the verb.)

7. Anyone who wants to play football with the rest of us needs to meet by the flagpole.

8. Your brothers and your sister like to read mysteries.

9. The monkeys who live in the zoo enjoy the daily visitors.

10. The problems on that assignment require a great deal of time to complete.

© David Rickert http://www.davidrickert.com