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Subject-Verb Agreement

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Mike Olson

on 28 March 2014

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Transcript of Subject-Verb Agreement

I don’t have to look far to find agreement mistakes, even when I’m not in copy-editor mode. I was on hold for my doctor’s office the other day and winced when a sincere voice requested, “Your patience and consideration is very much appreciated.” I did not appreciate that at all, and my patience was as sore as my throat.

- Mignon Fogarty (a.k.a. Grammar Girl)
What are subjects and verbs?
Subjects continued
tells you who or what a sentence is about.

tells you what the subject is doing.

Generally, a sentence needs a subject
a verb in order to be complete.
Now look at this one:

The weatherperson predicted rain.

The subject of this sentence is 'the weatherperson' because it is performing the action of predicting rain.
Verbs are the words that indicate the action of the subject.

For example:

I walked to the store.

of this sentence is
because that is the action being performed.

Subjects at a glance
In a sentence, the subject is usually the person, place or thing that is doing something or being something.

Take a look at the following example:

I live in Barry.

of the sentence is
because it is performing the action of living in Barry.
A resource for writing better sentences
Subject-Verb Agreement
Verbs continued
How about this one?

My father is old.
This one is a bit trickier because it is not immediately clear what the subject (my father) is actually doing. Here, the
is the word
. The word 'is' implies a state of being, and 'to be' is an action; therefore, 'is' can function as a verb.
Singular or Plural?
Here are some singular subject-verb combinations:

It is/was...
He is/was...
She is/was...
*I am/was...
*You are...

*Note: The present tense verb for 'I' and 'you' is never 'is'; the present verb for 'I' is 'am'; the present verb for you is 'are'.

And here are some plural equivalents:

They are/were...
We are/were...
An important thing to remember is that subjects and verbs can come in

So, just what is subject-verb agreement?
A sentence's subject must agree with its verb. If it does not, then the sentence is not grammatically correct. Here are two key rules to remember:

1.) A singular subject must agree with a singular verb

2.) A plural subject must agree with a plural verb

Have a look at these examples:
My friend and I are going to the cinema tonight.

In this sentence there are
-'My friend'

Therefore, the subject is
and needs a
plural verb
, 'are'.

But what if the sentence read like this...?
My friend and I
going to the cinema tonight.

The sentence would then be lacking subject-verb agreement because a
plural subject
would have been partnered with a
singular verb
Let's try another one!
Have a look at this one:

One of the boxes

In this sentence, it is tempting to think that the verb should be plural and that the sentence should read:

One of the boxes

However, the subject is
in this case because it is
only one
of the boxes that is being opened. Therefore the verb must be
as well.

Time to take it up a notch!
This one is a bit more difficult. Can you spot the subject in this sentence?

"Located along the northern coast of the Bristol Channel, Barry is a seaside resort."
The subject in this sentence is "Barry".
The thing to remember is that the subject is not always the first word in the sentence. In the above example, all of the words before the comma (,) are just additional information about the subject.
...Now find the verb in this one!
In the following sentence, the subject is "Barry". But what is the subject's verb?

"Barry, which has a population of 50, 000 people, is much smaller than London."

The verb is "is".

Don't be deceived by the added information between the subject and verb. Often, words enclosed between a set of commas are just added information about the subject.
But is subject-verb agreement really that important?
That depends on the context.

In informal speech, subject-verb agreement is often ignored.

For example, you might hear someone say, "They was saying on the news that it is going to rain."

Here, the subject "they" is plural and the verb "was" is singular. Therefore, the subject and verb don't agree.

But, in an informal conversation, subject-verb agreement is not always crucial.

But sometimes it really does matter...
In formal writing, subject-verb agreement is
important, especially in the context of applying for work.

For instance, what if your cover letter said: "I is interested in applying for the job advertised..."?

You can bet that your application would be ignored! In other words, follow subject-verb agreement in formal situations!
About this site
This site is designed to help learners overcome one of the most difficult parts of grammar: subject-verb agreement.

To use this site, simply press the right arrow key to progress to the next slide. If you wish to zoom in on a text, simply click on it.

Throughout the resource, you are provided with activities. To start the activities, simply follow the links provided.

At the end of the resource, you will be provided with a link to a survey in order to give your feedback.
Things to remember #1
Just because a subject ends in 's' does not necessarily mean it is a plural. Look at the sentence below:

The news is on at six.

Although the subject (news) ends in 's', it is still singular and requires a singular verb.

Singular words are often mistaken for plurals.
There are many words that look like they are plural. However, they are singular.

Here are some common examples:

Everyone, everything, anyone, everybody, each

So, if you ever encounter one of these words, especially near the the start of a sentence, chances are that your subject is singular.
Activity 2
Now visit the website below to give your knowledge of verbs a test.
Activity 1
Visit the website below and give your knowledge of subjects a test:

Activity 3
Now it is time to put your knowledge of subject-verb agreement into practice.

Please visit the website below to find your next task:

Things to remember #2
Things to remember #3
The verb does not always follow the subject.
Take a look at this sentence:

There was a sale on at Tesco.

Here, the verb is '
and the subject is '
a sale'.
Activity #4 and End of Resource (finally!)
Visit the website below for your final activity:


When you have finished, visit the website below to give your feedback on the resource:

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