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Subject Verb Agreement

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Verbs have a singular and a plural form. When using a verb in a sentence, pay attention to the subject-verb agreement. This means, that the subject and the verb must agree in number.

If a subject is singular, the verb must be singular.

For example:

  • Sarah walks around the block.
  • Joe eats spaghetti and meatballs.
  • The cat plays with the yarn.

If a subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

For example:

  • Sarah and Molly walk around the block.
  • Joe and Marcus eat spaghetti and meatballs.
  • The cats play with the yarn.
Important rules of subject verb agreement

1. When you have a sentence that uses I or you as the subject, even though the subject is singular, the verb takes the plural form.

  • I eat broccoli.
  • You play the piano.

2. Another time when subjects and verbs do not have to agree is when the verbs are written in the past tense. In this case, the form of the verb is the same no matter what the subject is.

  • Maria talked on the phone.
  • My parents talked on the phone.
  • Dad washed the car.
  • They washed the car.

3. If there are prepositional phrases between the subject and verb, they don't affect the agreement .

  • The ice from the Arctic began to melt.
  • The drops of rain fell on my face.

4. In a sentence that starts with here or there, the subject is after the verb, so you must pay attention to make sure the two agree.

  • There are my shoes.
  • Here is my shirt.

5. In questions, sometimes the subject does not always come right before the verb. So, you must pay attention to make sure the two agree.

  • Do you want to come over to my house?
  • How did Sarah find us?

6. When a word such as each, every, or no comes before the subject, you will always use a singular verb.

  • No dog or cat plays baseball.
  • Every student needs a pencil.

7. Two subjects joined by the word and need a plural verb.

  • Gil and Kelly race to the park.
  • Dogs and cats smell the flowers.

8. Singular subjects connected by words such as or, neither/nor, or either/or have a singular verb.

  • Either Jack or Russell is guilty.
  • Bob or Sue is responsible for the crash.

9. When writing about units of measurement or time, use a singular verb.

  • Five hours was all it took to complete my homework.
  • Four gallons of milk is enough for the recipe.

10. Indefinite pronouns, such as somebody, everybody, everyone, and someone, use singular verbs.

  • Everybody arrives on the 15th of the month.
  • Somebody needs to hear this.
Why Does Subject-Verb Agreement Matter?

Subject-Verb agreement is important because it makes a sentence easier to understand. It also helps make the sentence sound better.

Look at this sentence: "Monica play softball."

What does it mean? Is it commanding someone named Monica to play softball? No. It is a sentence where the subject and verb do not agree. The sentence should say: "Monica plays softball."

Summary
  • When you use a verb in a sentence, it usually describes what the subject is doing.

    Because of this, the subject and verb must agree in number.

    For Example:

    • Carlton makes a basket NOT Carlton make a basket.
    • The chefs cook a dinner NOT The chefs cooks a dinner.
  • There are unique scenarios when it comes to subject-verb agreement, such as:
    • The pronouns I and you use the plural form of the verb.
    • In the past tense, there is no singular or plural form of the verb.
    • If there are prepositional phrases between the subject and verb, they don't affect the agreement.
    • In a sentence that starts with here or there, the subject is after the verb, so you must pay attention to make sure the two agree.
    • In questions, sometimes the subject does not always come right before the verb. So you must pay attention to make sure the two agree.
    • When a word such as each, every, or no comes before the subject, you will always use a singular verb.
    • Two subjects joined by the word and need a plural verb.
    • Singular subjects connected by words such as or, neither/nor, or either/or have a singular verb.
    • When writing about units of measurement or time, use a singular verb.
    • Indefinite pronouns, such as somebody, everybody, everyone, and someone, use singular verbs.

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