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Making Subjects and Verbs Agree

  1.  Do you have compound subjects connected with and? Use a plural verb.

  2.  Do you have two or more singular nouns or pronouns connected by or or nor? Use a singular verb.

3.  A compound subject containing both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor needs a verb that agrees with the noun (pronoun) that is nearest to the verb.

  4.  Doesn't (does not) is used only with a singular subject. Don't (do not) is used only with a plural subject.

5.  When phrases come between a subject and a verb, keep this in your mind: The verb must agree with the subject, not with a noun or pronoun in the phrase.

 6.  The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb. Pay attention to the spelling, too. Each of those words (except for no one) is written as one word, not two. For example, the word "everyone" is spelled as one word, not as "every one".

7.  The relative pronouns (who, whom, which, and that) are either singular or plural, depending on the words to which they refer.

8.  Some subjects may look plural, but are considered singular (civics, mathematics, news, measles, dollars).  Some may look singular, but are considered plural (media, data). 

Note: *The word "news" is a problem for most people learning English. Never use the article "a" before "news". Use "the", or no article at all. Example: "I need news about weather conditions for flying." 'I need news about...' means any general information at all, not specific news. If you say "I need the news about weather conditions that was just broadcast on TV five minutes ago." , that means you need current specific information.

Here are more examples:

9.  Nouns such as scissors, glasses, jeans (as in blue jeans), and shears require plural verbs. (Each item just mentioned has two parts.)

10.  If a sentence begins with there is or there are, the subject follows the verb. The word there is never a subject, so the verb has to agree with what comes after it.

11.  Collective nouns (such as congregation, group, herd, tribe, class, parliament, and jury) are considered singular and take a singular verb.

*The plural verb is used if the individuals in the group are specifically referred to.

12.  Expressions such as with, together with, including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well do not change the number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.


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