20 Rules of Subject Verb Agreement with Example

As a professional, it is imperative to understand the importance of subject-verb agreement in writing. Subject-verb agreement determines the correctness and clarity of a sentence. A sentence with a mismatched subject-verb agreement can confuse readers and undermine the authority of the writer. Here are 20 rules of subject-verb agreement with examples to improve your writing and avoid common mistakes.

1. A singular subject requires a singular verb.

Example: The cat purrs when she sees a bird.

2. Plural subjects require plural verbs.

Example: The dogs bark when they see the mailman.

3. Compound subjects joined by “and” require a plural verb.

Example: The sun and the moon rise and set every day.

4. Compound subjects joined by “or” or “nor” require a verb that agrees with the subject closest to it.

Example: Neither the teacher nor the students are interested in the lesson.

5. When the subject is a collective noun, it can be singular or plural, depending on context.

Example: The team is practicing for the game. The team members are wearing their jerseys.

6. Indefinite pronouns such as “everyone,” “someone,” and “anyone” require singular verbs.

Example: Everyone is responsible for their own actions.

7. When the subject is separated from the verb by words or phrases, the verb must agree with the subject, not the intervening words.

Example: The book, as well as the pen, is on the desk.

8. Prepositional phrases do not affect subject-verb agreement.

Example: The dog in the yard barks at the mailman.

9. Verbs that come before the subject are singular.

Example: There is a cat on the windowsill.

10. Imperative sentences (commands) use the base form of the verb.

Example: Open the door, please.

11. Infinitives (verbs with “to” in front of them) are singular.

Example: To swim is my favorite exercise.

12. Fractions and percentages can be singular or plural, depending on the context.

Example: Two-thirds of the students were absent. Half of the cake was eaten.

13. Titles of works and organizations are singular.

Example: The Beatles is my favorite band.

14. Intervening words or phrases between the subject and verb do not affect the number agreement.

Example: The dog that barks all night was finally quiet.

15. Some nouns that are plural in form but singular in meaning use singular verbs.

Example: Mathematics is a difficult subject.

16. Words like “each,” “every,” and “neither” require singular verbs.

Example: Each of the students has their own desk.

17. When one subject is singular and one is plural, use the verb that agrees with the closest subject.

Example: The dog and the cats are sleeping.

18. When using “there” as a pronoun, the verb agrees with the noun that follows.

Example: There are three cars in the parking lot.

19. When using “either” or “neither,” the verb agrees with the noun that follows.

Example: Neither of the students has turned in their homework.

20. When the subject is a clause, the verb agrees with the subject of the clause, not the noun that comes before it.

Example: What the teacher said and what she did were two different things.

Understanding subject-verb agreement is crucial for effective and clear writing. By following these 20 rules and utilizing examples, writers can ensure their sentences are grammatically sound and communicate their ideas with clarity and precision.