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Verb Agreement Rules


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Verb Agreement Rules

Rule 1
The number of the verb is not affected by words that come between it and the subject. Remember that the number of the verb is not altered when other nouns are attached to the subject by means of prepositions.

Example of rule:
Mary, together with several of her friends, was present at the awards banquet


Rule 2
Indefinite pronoun subjects like either, neither, each, one, everyone, no one, somebody etc. take singular verbs.

Examples of rule:
Everyone is here today.
Somebody has given us a gift


Rule 3
None may take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on whether the writer wishes to emphasize “no one” or “no members” of the group.

Examples of rule:
None (not one) is correct.
None (no members) are here.


Rule 4
A verb agrees with its subject even when the subject follows the verb. Be especially careful to find the real subject in sentences starting with there.

Examples of rule:
There was barely enough food for the people.
There seems to be an extra player on the board.


Rule 5
Compound subjects joined by 'and' take a plural verb.

Examples of rule:
On the floor were a boy and his sisters.
Peas, potatoes, and squash make a good menu.


Rule 6
Singular subjects joined by 'or' or 'nor' take a singular verb

Example of rule:
Neither she nor her friend is ever present at the conference.
My aunt or my uncle is arriving by train today.


Rule 7
If the subjects joined by 'or' or 'nor' differ in number, the verb agrees with the subject nearer to it.

Examples of rule:
Neither the students nor the teacher is here today.
Neither the teacher nor the students are here today.


Rule 8
Plural nouns of amount and distance, when they are used as singular units of measurement, take singular verbs.

Example of rule:
A thousand dollars was once given to charity.

Rule 9
Words like number, all, rest, part, some, more, most, half may be singular or plural, depending on the meaning intended.

When the word 'number' is in the subject, it is considered singular if it is preceded by 'the' and plural if it is preceded by 'a'.

Examples of rule:
The number of desks is not adequate for the students.
A number of students are here in the writing center.



Rule 10
When the subject is a relative pronoun, the antecedent of the pronoun determines the number (and person) of the verb.

Examples of rule:
He told a story that was faultless.
She is one of those teachers who enjoy being patient.


Rule 11
Indefinite pronouns are always singular.

Some examples of indefinite pronouns are anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, much, neither, nobody, none, no one nothing, one, somebody, someone, something

Example of rule:
Everybody has brought his or her book

Rule 12
If a pronoun refers to a compound unit or to a collective noun, the pronoun is singular or plural depending on the number of the antecedent.

Examples of rule:
Both he and his son have changed their name.
Either Bob or Bill will take his book.


Sample Usage

In a large university a freshman can feel lost if he or she has (Not have) grown up in a small town.

Rest of the examples are given above.


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