Subject-verb agreement means that the subject and verb endings agree in number. Determining singular or plural endings can be confusing because an -s ending on a noun indicates plural, whereas an -s ending on a verb indicates singular form. The subject of every sentence is either singular or plural, and that determines the ending of the verb.
In the examples below, the subjects in the sentences are underlined the verbs are italicized.
Rule 1: Singular nouns (usually without s) take singular verbs (usually with s). Plural nouns (usually with s) take plural verbs (usually without s).
The bee buzzes every night. (One bee = singular verb)
The bees buzz every night. (More than one bee = plural verb)
The stamps stick.
Time flies so fast.
Note: The nouns “I” and “you” always take a plural verb.
I eat a lot.
You are so beautiful.
Rule 2: Compound subjects or subjects joined by and take a plural verb.
My father and my brother visit me every year.
Rule 3: The conjunction ‘or’ does not conjoin like ‘and.’ When you use or, the verb takes the the number of the closest subject.
Your father or his sisters are going to take care of Anna.
Your sisters or your father is going to take care of Anna.
Rule 4: Just like in Rule 3, when the subject words are joined by either … or, neither . . . nor, or not only … but , the verb agrees with the subject closest to it.
Either her friend or her mother has the money.
Neither her uncle nor her aunts have the money.
In sentence 1, the verb “has” which is singular agrees with the subject “mother” (singular). In the second sentence, the verb “have” (plural) agrees with the subject “aunts” (plural).
Rule 5: The indefinite pronouns no one, anyone, everyone, someone, anybody, everybody, somebody, and nobody are always singular. They take singular verbs.
No one is above the law.
Everyone was happy.
Rule 6: When word groups or modifiers separate the subject and the verb, locate the subject word to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb.
The flowers in the pot on the balcony need watering.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Rule 7: Phrases starting with the following words are normally not part of the subject: along with, together with, accompanied by, in addition to, as well as, except, with, no less than.
Risa, together with her friends, goes to a party every weekend.
Dana and Gemma, together with their father, go to church every weekend.
That’s all for now, we will discuss more rules in the next post.