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It applies only to finite clauses

It only applies to present tenses (simple, continuous and
perfect) and the verb TO BE in some other forms (past
In general terms, plural subject take plural agreement
and singular subjects take singular agreement.
My brother works as a doctor. (sg)
My brothers work very hard. (pl)

The idea of singular/plural in the subject determines its

agreement (and not the grammatical form)
Plural nouns, titles and quotations are understood as a
single entity and therefore take singular agreement.
The United States is a very big country
Plural measures are understood as a single concept and
therefore take singular agreement.
Three kilos is too much


Existential there: Normally the notional subject

determines the agreement .
There are apples in the fridge.

Notional subject


The verb tends to agree with the closest

(pro)noun, even when this is NOT the head of
the subject noun phrase
Do you think any of them are bad Claire?)

Head (sg agreement)

Closest pronoun (pl agreement)

Grammatical concord is the idea of making the verb agree
with the subject in number depending on whether the
subject is singular or plural but there are some cases that
need deeper analysis.

Cero plurals: Plural not ending in s

This is the case of words like sheep or fish which
can be both singular or plural.
If we are referring to a single unit, we use singular
The sheep is ill and will soon die. (We are talking
about one specific sheep, one unit)
But if we are referring to a group, we normally use
plural agreement.
The sheep were grazing (We are talking about all
the sheep together)

Concord in relative clauses: It is determine by the


The boys (who were playing in the park) didnt see us.
(boys, the antecedent, is plural)
The man (who works with my father) is nice.
(man, the antecedent, is singular)

Singular nouns ending in s

Most of them take singular agreement, including fields of
Physics is my favourite subject

However they may take plural agreement if they express mode of


Coordinated subjects
Coordinated by and
Normally take plural agreement:
My sister and I are pleased to see you.

Sometimes they take singular agreement when the two

subjects are understood as a single entity:
The anxiety and anger is then taken away.
(Anxiety and ager are understood as being one single

Coordinated by or
If both elements are singular, singular concord is
Check that no food or drink has been consumed.

When at least one of the elements is plural, plural

concord is taken.
Whether interest rates or intervention were the chosen
instrument was probably a secondary question
However, some grammarians state that in these cases we
should apply the principle of proximity.

Coordinated by neither/nor
When both noun phrases are singular, they
take singular concord
Neither geologic evidence nor physical theory
supports this conclusion
When both noun phrases are plural, they take
plural concord

But neither the pilots nor the machinists

appear interested
When one is singular and one plural, we use
the principle of proximity

Concord with quantifying expressions

Anybody/anyone, everybody/everyone,
nobody/no one, somebody/someone agree with
sg. vbs.
Everybody is doing that
All, some, any, a lot, most take singular or plural
depending on whether they have singular or plural
All the water is gone / All the people are gone
Each and none normally take singular.
Each person needs to pick a partner.
Either and neither can take both singular and
plural (although singular is preferred)
Concord and pronoun reference.
The same way subjects and verbs agree in number, so
do nouns and pronouns that refer to them later in a
Soon, the shelter will be pulled down and its
inhabitants relocated. (Both the subject and the
pronoun agree in number and person)
However, in some cases, they dont agree:
a) When the sex of the person is unknown or we
dont want to reveal it.

There is a person waiting for me. They are my


b) With some pronouns like everybody which take singular

verb agreement.
Everybody is doing what they are supposed to

Collective nouns
Collective nouns (nouns referring to a group of things)
tend to be plural in British English and singular in
American English.
The Government have indicated it will make provision
in the Bill (BrE)
The Government has indicated it will make provision in
the Bill (AmE)
When plural concord takes place, the focus is put on the
individuals that make up the group

Clauses as subjects
When the subject of a sentence is a clause. Singular
agreement is taken.
Carrying the boxes was a difficult task
However, in cleft sentences, we might prefer plural
agreement in some cases.
What we need is a new leader
What we need are more regulations

Agreement of person

When different grammatical persons are

coordinated by and, no problem: plural vb. Used
My brother and I are happy.
When different grammatical persons are
coordinated by or or (n)either (n)or, the
principle of proximity is followed (i.e. the verb
tends to agree with the closest noun phrase)
Not one leaf is to go out of the garden until
either I or my chief taster gives the order.

20 Rules of Subject Verb Agreement

1. Subjects and verbs must agree in number. This is the cornerstone rule that forms
the background of the concept.
The dog growls when he is angry. The dogs growl when they are angry.
2. Dont get confused by the words that come between the subject and verb; they
do not affect agreement.
The dog, who is chewing on my jeans, is usually very good.

3. Prepositional phrases between the subject and verb usually do not affect
The colors of the rainbow are beautiful.
4. When sentences start with there or here, the subject will always be placed
after the verb, so care needs to be taken to identify it correctly.
There is a problem with the balance sheet. Here are the papers you requested.
5. Subjects don't always come before verbs in questions. Make sure you accurately
identify the subject before deciding on the proper verb form to use.
Does Lefty usually eat grass? Where are the pieces of this puzzle.
6. If two subjects are joined by and, they typically require a plural verb form.
The cow and the pig are jumping over the moon.
7. The verb is singular if the two subjects separated by and refer to the same person
or thing.
Red beans and rice is my mom's favorite dish.
8. If one of the words each, every, or no comes before the subject, the verb is
No smoking or drinking is allowed. Every man and woman is required to check in.
9. If the subjects are both singular and are connected by the words or, nor,
neither/nor, either/or, and not only/but also the verb is singular.
Jessica or Christian is to blame for the accident.
10. The only time when the object of the preposition factors into the decision of
plural or singular verb forms is when noun and pronoun subjects like some, half,
none, more, all, etc. are followed by a prepositional phrase. In these sentences, the
object of the preposition determines the form of the verb.
All of the chicken is gone. All of the chickens are gone.
11. The singular verb form is usually used for units of measurement or time.
Four quarts of oil was required to get the car running.
12. If the subjects are both plural and are connected by the words or, nor,
neither/nor, either/or, and not only/but also, the verb is plural.
Dogs and cats are both available at the pound.

13. If one subject is singular and one plural and the words are connected by the
words or, nor, neither/nor, either/or, and not only/but also, you use the verb form of
the subject that is nearest the verb.
Either the bears or the lion has escaped from the zoo. Neither the lion nor the bears
have escaped from the zoo.
14. Indefinite pronouns typically take singular verbs. *
Everybody wants to be loved.
15. * Except for the pronouns (few, many, several, both, all, some) that always take
the plural form.
Few were left alive after the flood.
16. If two infinitives are separated by and they take the plural form of the verb.
To walk and to chew gum require great skill.
17. When gerunds are used as the subject of a sentence, they take the singular verb
form of the verb; but, when they are linked by and, they take the plural form.
Standing in the water was a bad idea. Swimming in the ocean and playing drums
are my hobbies.
18. Collective nouns like herd, senate, class, crowd, etc. usually take a singular verb
The herd is stampeding.
19. Titles of books, movies, novels, etc. are treated as singular and take a singular
The Burbs is a movie starring Tom Hanks.
20. Final Rule Remember, only the subject affects the verb!