Matching the verb to the subject of your sentence

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There are many situations where it can be difficult to determine whether to use the singular or plural form of a verb in a sentence. The key is to focus on the subject, and not all the other words around the subject that can distract you. To follow are examples of when to use the singular or plural form of a verb depending on the subject.

Note: Thanks to The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Schertzer for the direction.

Note 2: Some of the sentences are written in passive voice, or in a way to illustrate the point, and not necessarily the most effective or efficient way.

Compound subjects

Use the plural when the subject includes two or more nouns or pronouns connected by AND, except when the nouns refer to the same person or express one idea

  • Our cars and trucks are equipped with GPS devices.
  • He and his mother are on the school committee.
  • My wife and partner says I should pay more attention to her.
  • The heart and soul of the team is the goalie.

Use a singular verb when connecting singular subjects with OR or NOR.

  • Either the dog or the cat is sitting in your chair.
  • Neither Franklin nor Bash knows who took the pizza.

If you have one singular and one plural subject connected by EITHER-OR or NEITHER-NOR, put the plural subject second and the verb should agree with the plural subject.

  • Either the owner or the employees are able to deliver the goods to the client.
  • Neither my wife nor my children are allowed to drive my new car.

Agreement

The verb should agree with the subject. Ignore any nouns placed between the verb and subject.

  • The list of companies is located on my desk.
  • The latest report about our findings has been published on our website.

Verb before subject

Be careful when the verb comes before the subject. Pay attention to whether the subject is singular or plural, regardless of the order.

  • Lisa said there were case studies being written about how their customers used their software.
  • Within this book are appendices for the different resources used in its writing.

Working with quantities

The verb should agree with the noun in the prepositional phrase when working with fractions.

  • Half of the bottle was finished before I took it out of the cabinet.
  • Half of the people were from outside the region.

The verb should be singular for nouns of quantity, distance, time and amount that are treated as a unit.

  • Fifty dollars is enough for a birthday gift.
  • Six feet of space is required between the two of you.

Collective nouns

A collective noun names a group of persons, animals or things. If the noun refers to a group doing something as one, make the verb singular. If the noun refers to the individuals in the group, make the verb plural.

  • The group has come to a decision on where to go for dinner.
  • The parks committee are not in agreement on where to place the playground equipment.

Other blog posts on grammar topics


Do you need help with writing or grammar issues? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

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