8 Tips on subject verb agreement

“Both the United States of America and China supports the new proposal.” As I was glancing through the archive sections of a well known news agency, this particular line struck me. Though, it’s a
common error in writing. Often times, the content writer gets confused with what is called “error of proximity” (situations where the verb is made to agree with a noun that is near to it).

On the net, I have seen many instances where the writer has used wrong form of the verb for its subject. Given below are some tips on how to avoid them, after all grammatical errors in your writing can cost you heavily. Isn’t it?

  1. Singular nouns and pronouns joined by the word “and” are generally plural.Example: Gold and silver are precious metals.
    However, if the nouns suggest one idea, or refer to the same person or the same thing then the verb is singular.

    Example:The novelist and the great poet is dead. (This sentence is about a single person who was a novelist and also a poet)

  2. “Does not” should be used only with a singular subject. “Do not” should be used only with a plural subject.

    Example: She does not like to write.

  3. When two or more singular subjects are connected with each other by: “nor” and or” , then the verb must be singular.

    Example: Neither the student nor the teacher was interested in taking the class.

  4. When the subjects joined by “nor” and “or” are of different persons, in that case the verb agrees with the subject nearer to it.

    Example: Neither the lecturer nor the students want to attend the farewell. ( in this construction, want agrees with students )

  5. “Each”, “everyone”, “everybody”, “nobody” must be followed by a singular verb.

    Example: Nobody expects to fail when they start a business.

  6. There are some nouns that are plural in form but have a singular meaning. These subjects will take a singular verb.

    Example: The news is bad.

  7. “There is” and “there are” agree with the noun that follows.

    Example: There are students in the room.

  8. Collective nouns take a singular verb, such as: group, team, committee, class, and family.

    Example: The committee has issued its report.

In very few instances, it is seen that the plural verb is used if the individuals in the group are thought of and specifically referred to.

7 comments

  • Very nice and informative post. 🙂 We can learn a lot with these kind of posts. Keep posting.

  • thats a very informative post… and the best part is that these tips are useful in our day to day writing… Hope these tips will help improve the quality of my blog post.

  • Thanks for the Tips!
    I totally AGREE..

  • “Example: The news is bad” :- this is true. 🙂

    I really liked your post. Keep on posting such informative post.

  • I have a doubt on the news – It must be “The news are bad”, as it covers update from all around – N-North, E-East, W- West and S-South. What do you think… 🙂

  • Hey thanks all of u 🙂

    @ debashish da ……..yes news covers update from all around the corner….but still its used as singular….”WHAT TO SAY” now 😉

    @ chitra…hey u cld have written something in rhyme 🙁

  • what if the sentence is The committee do not agree on the report.
    the word committee there is considered as individual member.
    What are the proofs in the sentence?

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