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InfoTrac College Edition

Subject-Verb Agreement

Avoiding Errors In Subject Verb Agreement

Subjects and verbs must agree in number. Singular subjects take singular verbs in present tense:

  • One boy walks to school.

Plural subjects take plural verbs:

  • Two boys walk to school.

Many words that appear to be plural are singular. Names of corporations, organizations, or works of art are singular:

  • United Technologies is a growth company.
  • Thelma and Louise is my favorite movie.

Amounts of time and money are singular:

  • Two hundred dollars is too much to pay for a blouse.
  • Fourteen hours is not enough time.

When two singular items are joined by or, the verb is singular:

  • Either the teacher OR the parent is taking charge.

When two plural items are joined by or, the verb is plural:

  • Either the teachers OR the parents are taking charge.

When there are a singular and plural subject, the verb agrees with the nearest subject:

  • The package or the letters are insured.
  • The letters or the package is insured.

Make sure to identify the key word of the subject, especially in phrases:

  • One of my friends is coming.
  • The cost of computer supplies is rising.

Both One and cost are singular.

NOTE: Whether subjects are singular or plural can affect meaning:

  • Crime and violence is threatening our children.

    (Indicates "crime and violence" as one topic)

  • Crime and violence are threatening our children.

    (Indicates that "crime" and "violence" are separate problems)

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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.