Northcentral University Writing Center
Revising Subject/Verb Agreement


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Writing Center

Revising Subject/Verb Agreement

 

Subject and verb agreement means that the subject of the sentence must agree with the verb of the sentence in number. That means that when a writer chooses a singular subject, the main very connected to that subject must also be singular in form. If the subject is plural, then the verb number must also be plural.

That student sings in the school choir. (singular subject + a singular verb)

Those students sing in the school choir. (plural subject+ plural verb)

 

Usually, the subject with be the noun to the left of the main verb.

 

At times, there will be intervening words and phrases, such as prepositions, which may make it more difficult for the writer to determine the subject of the sentence. Most of the time, those intervening words and phrases are prepositional phrases or participial phrases.

 

THE GROUP of students is going to be participating in the program.

(The subject of the sentence is “group” and is considered to be singular in number.

Therefore, the main verb form will be in the singular.)

 

THE SURVEY covering the students is due tomorrow.

(The subject is followed by a modifying phrase, but the verb number is determined by the subject and not by the intervening word or phrase.)

 

THE SPEAKER whom you saw at the lecture is one of the state senators

from Arizona.

(The subject is followed by a modifying clause, but the verb number is determined by the subject and not by the intervening clause.)

 

Also, subjects may be joined to other subjects by connectors. The subjects then become plural, and the verb form becomes plural.

 

THE SENATOR AND THE PRESIDENT were part of the motorcade.

(Each of the subjects is singular; however, when they are taken together, they cause the verb form to become plural. The subjects are taken together because they are joined by AND.)

 

Sometimes the word used to connect two subjects may cause the verb to agree with the noun closest to it.

Neither the Senator nor the President was present for the meeting.

(The verb will agree with the noun closest to it when the writer uses the connectors either…or, neither…nor, not only…but also.)

 

The writer must also recall that when editing text for subject and verb agreement, special attention must be paid to the indefinite pronouns as they will require a singular verb form. For help with indefinite pronouns, please see the NCU Writing Center’s Revising Indefinite Pronoun UsageAdditionally, writers are also encouraged to visit the Writing Centers at Colorado, Purdue, and Chapel Hill.