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Subject Verb Agreement from Business Communication for MB0023 of SMU MBA

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We have thus far learnt various types of sentences and the elements that makeup a sentence. We shall polish this a little further to understand the nuances that we should keep in mind while writing or conversing in English. The rules that one should follow while constructing a sentence and while conversing may be different. The formal and informal usage of English differs.

The subject and verb agreement is an important aspect of the English language. It is very important that the verb and subject agree in number and person.

The two smart girls in the class were chosen to win the award.

In the given example there are three ways in which the subject (girls) is show to be plural:

The verb ‘to be’ in its plural form ‘were’

The adjective ‘two’

The plural marker ‘s’ attached to the subject ‘girl’

While trying to determine whether a verb should be in singular or plural form, find the subject and ignore all the words coming after it. If the subject is singular, then the verb is singular or vice versa.

The problems with the student have not yet been resolved.

In this example, the subject is ‘problems’ which is in the plural form. So the verb should be in the plural form. Hence we use the verb ‘have’ (plural form).

1. When two subjects are joined by ‘and, and the verb is plural. For example – John and Jinny are friends.


When two singular noun are joined by ‘and’, but refer to the same person, then the verb is singular. For example – The secretary and treasurer is on leave.

When two different singular nouns express one unit, the verb is in singular. For example – Rice and curry is my staple diet.

When two singular subjects are practically synonymous, the verb is in singular. For example – Peace and prosperity is the need of the day.

When two singular subjects are joined by ‘and’ which are preceded by ‘each’ or ‘every’, the verb is in singular. For example – Every man, woman and child has been rescued.

2. The nouns that end in – s (certain countries, fields of study, activities, diseases) take a singular verb.

For example –

The aerobics class is held every Tuesday.

The United States doesn’t have a centralized governing body for educational affairs.

Mathematics was my favorite subject in school.

Measles is a serious childhood disease if not treated properly.

3. Most collective nouns take the singular form of the verb.

For example – The committee doesn’t have to come up with a solution until next week.

Exception: However, the nouns ‘people’ and ‘police’ are considered plural, so they take a plural verb.

For example – The police are here to protect us.

The people were happy to see the return of their king.

4. The expression of time, distance and money are often seen as collective items and hence take a singular verb.

For example – Two miles is too far to walk in this lashing rain.

Five hours has already passed since his surgery ended.

Five thousand rupees is a fair price for such an old painting.

5. When the words ‘all’, ‘most’, ‘some’ and ‘any’ are followed by a non-count noun, the verb is singular.

For example – All of the cake has been eaten.

Some fat is good for you.

Most car exhaust contains pollutants that threaten all living things.

Exception: However, if the words are followed by a plural count noun, the verb is plural.

For example – All men are created equal.

6. “Noun” and “neither” always take a singular verb, whether followed by a plural or a non-count noun.

For example – None of the cats belongs to me.

Neither of the women is the one who spoke to me yesterday.

7. When the subjects are joined by “either… or”, “neither… nor”, “not only… but also”, “both… and”, the verb agrees with the subject which is close to it.

For example – Neither the children nor the mother wants to leave.

Either you or I am going to call an end to this charade.

Not only she but all her friends also were in the list of failures.

Both my brother and I am interested in joining the team.

8. When two subjects are joined by ‘as well as’, ‘with’, ‘together with’, ‘accompanied by’, the verb agrees with the subject mentioned first.

For example – The President of India as well as his secretaries is invited to the function.

Her friends along with Sheela are arriving by the first flight.

9. “The + adjective” takes the plural verb because it refers to the whole group.

For example – The sick were taken to the hospital immediately.

10. A plural verb is used when ‘a lot of’, ‘a great deal of’, ‘plenty of’, ‘most of’, ‘some of’ are used while referring to number.

For example – A lot of people were present in the theatre and some of them were students.

Exception: However, if the expressions refer to amount, the verb is singular.

For example – A lot of home work is given to the students.

11. When the expression ‘a number of’ is used with a plural noun, it takes plural verb. The expression, ‘the number of’, along with a plural noun takes a singular verb.

For example – A number of students are going to the picnic.

The number of students to volunteer is dwindling by the day.

12. In sports, while referring to the players, the name of the country is followed by plural verb.

For example – England have won the world cup.

13. When the percentage or a part of something is mentioned with plural meaning, the verb used is plural.

For example – 30% of the Indian women are literate.

14. “Majority” can be singular or plural.

It is followed by a plural noun, plural verb is used.

For example – Majority of the pens were blue.

If it stands alone, singular verb is used.

For example – The majority believes in easy work.

These are the examples and implementations of subject verb agreement. This is the most important chapter in English grammar. Subject verb agreement chapter has been taken from Business Communication for MB0023 of SMU MBA.


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