When determining subject and verb agreement, it is often tempting choose the verb form that “feels” right. Unfortunately, in grammar, like many things in life, what initially “feels” right is often wrong! So, what do we mean by subject and verb agreement? How can a subject agree with a verb?
Subjects and verbs agree in number. The both need to be singular, or they both need to be plural.
- Example: The student is at school.
- The subject student is singular, and the verb is is singular.
Like in this example, subject and verb agreement is often straightforward. However, there are several tricky situations that even challenge professors and writers. Follow these rules to avoid confusion:
Rule 1: Subjects that begin with each or every are singular.
Example: Please be sure that each document, file, statistic, and citation is organized correctly.
Rule 2: When the subject is either or neither, the verb is singular. (Note: The rule changes if “or” or “nor” is added.)
Example: Example: Which of these outlines do you need? Neither is what we specified.
Rule 3: When the subject is either…or or neither…nor, use a verb that matches the noun closer to it.
Example: Either the entrances or the exit is blocked.
Rule 4: The subject of the sentence is NOT inside a prepositional phrase. (It is usually right before it.)
Example: One of the documents is on your desk.
Rule 5: Interrupting phrases like as well as do NOT make a subject plural. (The word BEFORE the interrupting phrase determines the verb.)
Example: Carmen as well as her colleagues is here.
Here are a few additional examples:
- Neither the programmers nor the manager agrees with that process.
- The department with the most employees benefits the most from the new policies.
- Either cake or cookies needs to be served at the company holiday party.
- The accountant along with the auditor reviews all of the figures and note errors found and recommendations.
- Every statistic, figure, report, and calculation indicates that we need to change our method of delivery.