Archive for June 2011

Rules of Subject/Verb Agreement Part 1

June 20, 2011

Subject-Verb AGREEMENT

Agreement means “correspondence.”  Your sentences will express harmony if there is a proper relationship between subjects and verbs.

Lack of Harmony between subject and verb:

Sarah read the newspaper at night.     or…

New York are huge cities.

Harmony between subject and verb:

Many people read the newspaper at night.   or…

New York and Chicago are huge cities.


Rule for subject-verb agreement: a verb should always agree with its subject in number. That is, a singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject requires a plural verb.

 Singular subject and verb: Green ink is often difficult to read.

Plural subject and verb: The desks are highly polished.


There are, however, several cases when you must take special care to achieve agreement !


A compound subject is formed by two or more words, phrases, or clauses joined by and and or (nor).

i) If the parts of a compound subject are linked by and, the verb is plural.

– The lioness and her cub share a close bond. (1+1 = 2)

ii) Singular subjects linked by or take a singular verb.

– Either  Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson was chosen the most

valuable player to his team. (Only one person can be MVP)

iii) However, plural subjects linked by or take a plural verb.

– Neither alligators nor crocodiles make good pets.

(Even if we’re talking only about the alligators, we still have more than one alligator to consider.)

* This is the special rule to remember because this is where most errors are made.

*iv) Finally, when a plural subject and a singular subject are joined by or (nor), the verb agrees with the nearer subject.

The heat or predators pose a threat to newborn lion cubs.

(sing.)    (plur.)   (plur.)

– The predators or heat poses a threat to newborn lion cubs.

(plur.)               (sing.)  (sing.)

PRACTICE: Now you take and apply these rules to the brief exercise below.

If you are not sure you are correct, please contact me with your answers.

1. Canadian and British (is/are) types of great literature.

2. Bunches of red roses, tender heart felt letters and an unexpected phone call,  (make/makes) her cry.

3. The insurance company informed me that neither it nor its representative (is/are) responsible for the damage to my car.

4. Alistair MacLeod, like many contemporary Canadian authors, (write/writes) novels with intricate themes.

5. The whole vacation package, including air fare, hotel accommodations, and food, (is/are) too expensive for me.

We will stop here but continue with short practical lessons to help you improve your mechanical marks.