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Subject-Verb Concord


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As we all know, the most important part of a sentence is its verb. The subject of the sentence controls the verb. Although, in case of Imperative (command, request etc.) Sentences the subject (you) is remains hidden (or understood we can say) still it cast an influence on the verb.
In order to achieve proficiency in written English, one should keep the following rule in mind:

The finite (main) verb of a sentence must always agree with the number and person of the subject. It is often observed that instead of the proper subject, the verb is made to agree with the number and person near it. It is known as ‘Error of Proximity’ which should be avoided.

Note the following sentences: -

The progress of the students was not satisfactory.
The quality of the participants was not so good.

In the above sentences, we are talking about the progress and the quality which are singular in number. Hence, the verb used is also singular.

All the students were asked to assemble in the hall.

They are not taking the matter seriously.

In the above sentences, the subjects, i.e. the students and they are plural in number, so plural verbs have been used in each of the above sentences.

In addition to the above rule, the following ones should also be kept in mind while writing anything in English.
• When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are joined by ‘and’ then a plural verb is used: -

The principal and the manager were sitting in the office.
Fire and water do not agree.
Two and two make four.
Ramesh and I were present in the meeting.
Are Satish and Mohan good friends?

Note that in each of the above cases, two or more singular subjects have been joined by ‘and’; hence, a plural verb has been used.
• But when two or more singular nouns suggest one idea, or refer to the same person or thing, the verb is singular: -
Time and tide waits for none.
My philosopher and guide is present in the meeting.
Bread and butter is my usual breakfast
Slow and steady wins the race.
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

• When words are joined to a singular noun by ‘with’ ‘as well as’, together with etc. a singular verb is used: -
The poor man as well as his children is waiting outside.
The ship, with its crew, was destroyed in the storm.
The Prime Minister with his council of ministers is attending the function.
Gold as well as silver is used for making ornaments.

• When two singular subjects are joined by either-or or neither-nor, a singular verb is used: -

Either Mohan or Sohan is guilty.
Neither the officer nor the assistant is to be blamed.

• Some pronouns like anybody, nobody, either, each, anything, etc. always take a singular verb:-

Nobody likes to be called a fool.
Each of the members is working hard to win the award.
Somebody is calling you.
Something needs to be done at the earliest.

• Some nouns, though look plural in number, always take singular verbs: -

Mathematics is my favourite subject.
The news is true.
Mumps is not an infectious disease.

• If the subject is a unit of measurement or mathematical equation, a singular verb is used:

Ten thousand rupees a month is not a bad salary for the job.
Forty miles is a long distance for the old man.
One lac rupees is a large sum for him.


• When the plural noun is the name of some single object or some collective unit, it must be followed by a singular verb:

The Arabian Nights is my favourite book.
The United States of America is the richest country in the world.


Use of plural verbs: -

• When two or more singular nouns, joined by ‘and’ make plural subject, a plural verb is used:

India and China are the most populated countries in Asia.
The Taj Mahal and the Fatehpur Sikri are the two tourist spots everybody likes to visit.
Mumbai and Kolkata are the most polluted cities of India.

• Pronouns like ‘Many’, ‘both’ ‘few’, and ‘several’ expresses plural sense and take plural verb with them: -

Many people come to offer their prayer in the old shrine.
Many candidates were interviewed but only a few were selected.
Few realise the dignity of labour.


• The following nouns are always in plural form and therefore take plural verbs:

Where are my shorts?
These scissors are very sharp.
These trousers are not so tight.

• When two subjects (a singular and a plural) are joined together by ‘or’, ‘either-or’, ‘neither-nor, the verb should be plural and the plural subject should be placed as near as possible to the verb:

Neither Amit nor his brothers are going to school today.
Either you or your friends have to solve the problem.

• When two subjects of different numbers/persons are joined together by ‘or’, ‘either-or’, ‘neither-nor, the verb agrees with the subject nearest to it:

Either you or he has to take the responsibility.
Neither you nor I am to blame in the matter.



Sample Usage

As given in the examples


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