16 Subject Verb Agreement Rules with Examples

As a copy editor, one of the most important aspects of my job is ensuring that grammar and syntax are up to par. One of the most fundamental aspects of good writing is subject-verb agreement, where the verb agrees with the subject in number and person. Here are 16 subject-verb agreement rules to keep in mind, with examples:

1. Singular subjects take singular verbs, and plural subjects take plural verbs.

Example: The dog runs. The dogs run.

2. Indefinite pronouns (such as someone, anyone, nobody, everybody, etc.) take singular verbs.

Example: Someone is coming over.

3. Collective nouns (such as team, committee, family, etc.) can be singular or plural, depending on the context.

Example: The team is working well together. The team are arguing over strategy.

4. Compound subjects joined by “and” take plural verbs.

Example: The cat and the dog are playing.

5. Compound subjects joined by “or” or “nor” take a verb that agrees with the closest subject.

Example: Either the cat or the dog is responsible.

6. When subjects are connected by “either…or” or “neither…nor”, the verb agrees with the subject closer to the verb.

Example: Neither the cat nor the dog is responsible.

7. Compound subjects that refer to one thing take a singular verb.

Example: Bread and butter is a common breakfast food.

8. Words such as “each”, “every”, “either”, “neither”, “anyone” etc. take singular verbs.

Example: Every student in the class is required to attend.

9. When a collective noun is used to describe a group of individual items, the verb is plural.

Example: The group of apples are ripe.

10. Subjects that represent time, money, or distance are singular.

Example: Ten miles is a long way to run.

11. Singular verbs are used for a singular noun that is followed by a phrase starting with “one of”.

Example: One of the cats is hiding.

12. Subjects that refer to a percentage or amount take a singular verb.

Example: 50% of the cake has been eaten.

13. Intervening phrases, clauses or words between the subject and verb do not affect agreement.

Example: The dog, as well as the cat, wants to come inside.

14. Inverted sentences take the same subject-verb agreement as non-inverted sentences.

Example: Here is the cat. Here are the cats.

15. Titles of books, movies, songs, etc. take singular verbs.

Example: The Sound of Music is a classic film.

16. Verbs ending in “s” or “es” are usually singular and verbs ending in “ing” are plural.

Example: The dish tastes delicious. The dishes are all clean.

In summary, subject-verb agreement is an essential aspect of good grammar and clear communication. By following these 16 rules, writers can ensure that their writing is grammatically correct and easy to read.