Subject-Verb Agreement Rules: Ensuring Grammatical Consistency
Subject-verb agreement is a fundamental aspect of grammar that establishes the relationship between the subject and the verb in a sentence. To ensure grammatical consistency, it is crucial to follow certain rules governing subject-verb agreement. In this article, we will explore these rules and provide examples to clarify their application.
- Singular Subjects and Singular Verbs: When the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb must also be singular. For instance, “She writes every day” demonstrates the agreement between the singular subject “She” and the singular verb “writes.” However, an exception arises when using the singular pronoun “they.” In this case, plural verb forms should be employed to maintain consistency. For example, “The participant expressed satisfaction with their job. They are currently in a managerial role at the organization.”
- Plural Subjects and Plural Verbs: When the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural. For instance, “They write every day” showcases the agreement between the plural subject “They” and the plural verb “write.”
- Compound Subjects Connected by “and”: When a sentence’s subject comprises two or more nouns or pronouns connected by “and,” a plural verb should be used. For example, “The doctoral student and the committee members write every day” highlights the agreement between the plural subject and the plural verb. Similarly, in a sentence involving percentages and numbers, such as “The percentage of employees who called in sick and the number of employees who left their jobs within 2 years are reflective of the level of job satisfaction,” the plural verb “are” corresponds to the plural subject.
- Multiple Verbs and One Subject: In sentences with a single subject and multiple verbs, the verbs must agree with the subject throughout the sentence. For example, “Interviews are one way to collect data and allow researchers to gain an in-depth understanding of participants” demonstrates the agreement between the plural subject “Interviews” and the plural verbs “are” and “allow.”
- Phrases Between the Subject and the Verb: When a phrase interrupts the subject and the verb, it is important to remember that the verb still agrees with the subject, not the noun or pronoun in the intervening phrase. For instance, “The student, as well as the committee members, is excited” emphasizes the singular agreement between the subject “The student” and the verb “is.” Similarly, in the sentence “The student with all the master’s degrees is very motivated,” the singular verb “is” agrees with the singular subject “The student.”
- Singular and Plural Subjects Connected by “or” or “nor”: When singular nouns or pronouns are connected by “or” or “nor,” a singular verb should be used. For example, “The chairperson or the CEO approves the proposal before proceeding” demonstrates the singular agreement between the subject and the verb. Conversely, when a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by “or” or “nor,” the verb agrees with the part of the subject closest to it. This rule of proximity ensures consistency. For instance, “The student or the committee members write every day” demonstrates plural agreement, while “The committee members or the student writes every day” showcases singular agreement.
- Singular Words and Phrases: Words and phrases such as “each,” “each one,” “either,” “neither,” “everyone,” “everybody,” “anyone,” “anybody,” “nobody,” “somebody,” “someone,” and “no one” are singular and require a singular verb. For example, “Each of the participants was willing to be recorded” demonstrates singular agreement between the subject and the verb. Similarly, “Neither alternative hypothesis was accepted,” “I will offer a $5 gift card to everybody who participates in the study,” and “No one was available to meet with me at the preferred times” all showcase singular agreement.
- Noncount Nouns: Noncount nouns, which do not have a plural form, take a singular verb. For example, “Education is the key to success” and “Diabetes affects many people around the world” demonstrate the singular agreement between the subjects and the verbs.
- Plural-Only Countable Nouns: Certain countable nouns in English, such as earnings, goods, odds, surroundings, proceeds, contents, and valuables, only have a plural form and therefore require a plural verb. For instance, “The earnings for this quarter exceed expectations,” “The proceeds from the sale go to support the homeless population in the city,” and “Locally produced goods have the advantage of shorter supply chains” all demonstrate plural agreement.
- Sentences Starting with “There is” or “There are”: In sentences beginning with “there is” or “there are,” the subject follows the verb. As “there” is not the subject, the verb agrees with the noun or pronoun that follows it. For example, “There is little administrative support” and “There are many factors affecting teacher retention” showcase singular and plural agreement, respectively.
- Collective Nouns: Collective nouns refer to groups but are considered singular and require a singular verb. Examples of collective nouns include “group,” “team,” “committee,” “family,” and “class.” For instance, “The group meets every week” and “The committee agrees on the quality of the writing” both demonstrate singular agreement.
However, in some cases, the plural verb is used if the focus is on the individuals within the group. This usage is less common and typically arises when emphasizing individual actions rather than the collective. For example, “The committee participates in various volunteer activities in their private lives” showcases plural agreement.
By following these subject-verb agreement rules, writers can maintain grammatical consistency and effectively convey their intended meaning. Adhering to these guidelines ensures that sentences are clear, logical, and grammatically accurate, enhancing overall communication.