Subject Verbs Agreement
Subject-verb agreement is a grammatical rule, which states that the subject and the verb must agree in a sentence. The subject normally refers to the noun or pronoun that tells us whom or what the sentence is about. A verb normally has a singular and plural form in the present tense. The third person singular of the verb usually ends in ‘s’. some auxiliary verbs also have singular and plural forms in the present tense. ‘Be’ has singular and plural forms in the past tense as well as the present tense.Other verbs that also change their forms in both the singular and plural.Below is a table showing some examples:
The verbs ‘be’, ‘do’ and ‘have’ can also be used as main verbs as in the following:
|MAIN VERB||AUXILIARY VERB|
|I am happy.||I am going to town.|
|I have a new pair of shoes.||I have finished my work.|
|I did my work in the morning.||I did try my best|
To form grammatical sentences in English the subject and its verb must agree in both number and person. This means that we use a singular verb with a singular subject and a plural verb with a plural subject.Let us look at the sentences below.
- The car belongs to my brother.
- He works at the Connaught hospital.
- My sisters sing in the choir.
- They also play football.
The subjects "car",and "he" are considered singular and therefore used with singular verbs"belongs"and "works" respectively.The subjects "sisters" and "they" are plural and therefore go with "sing'and "play" which are also plural. The pronoun ‘I’ is used with ‘am’ and ‘was’ and with the plural form of other verbs. The pronoun ‘you’ is always used with the plural form.
LOCATING THE SUBJECT
To choose the correct verb form, you must first locate the subject. All you have to do is to find the subject of the verb, work out its pronoun substitute, then apply the present tense verb rule. In some sentences, a phrase comes between the subject and the verb. In others it comes after the verb.
- PHRASE BETWEEN THE SUBJECT AND VERB – A prepositional phrase that modifies a subject usually comes between the subject and predicate.Examples:
- The list of candidates is posted on the notice board.
- The morale of the workers is high.
- Acres of farm land were destroyed by the fire.
The verb agrees with the subject of the sentence, not with the object of the preposition in the above sentences
- SUBJECT AFTER THE VERB– In questions and in sentences that begin with ‘here’ or ‘there’, a subject comes after the verb.Examples:
- Where is my pen?
- Have you seen them?
- Here are your bags.
- There are three letters in your box.
- COMPOUND SUBJECTS - These refer to two or more subjects connected by a coordinating conjunction. In most cases, both subjects have the same verb. Use plural verbs with most compound subjects connected by ‘and’.Example:
- My mother and my aunt prefer European dishes.
- The teacher and Mathew were busy yesterday.
Use a singular verb with a compound subject that refers to one person or thing or to something that is general considered a unit.Examples:
- My team mate and friend is coming.
- Rice and beans is a popular dish in Sierra Leone.
- Weeping and wailing does not help to solve the problem.
With compound subject joined by ‘or’ or ‘nor’ (or by either… or, or neither… nor) the verb always agrees with the subject near the verb.
- Either the adults or the child is listening.
- Neither the students nor the teacher is present.
- Neither the teacher nor students are listening.
- Either the adult or the children are present.
COLLECTIVE NOUNS AS SUBJECT A collective noun names a group of people or objects; for example team, class, congregation, audience, band, club, etc. If a collective noun refers to a group as a single unit, use a singular verb. If on the other hand a collective noun refers to individual members of a group use a plural verb.Examples:
- The team plays well.(in the act of play,they all coordinate as a single group.)
- The family loves to travel.(everybody loves it-one unit)
- The team lodge at different hotels.
- The family take turn choosing places to visit.
SPECIAL NOUNS Most nouns that end in ‘s’ are plural. However there are some nouns that end in ‘s’ that plural in form but singular in meaning because they refer to a single thing. For example news, mathematics, measles, mumps.Example:
- Measles is now an epidemic in our area.
- Mathematics is the study of figures.
- The news was interesting.
Certain other nouns that end in ‘s’ such as scissors, pants, binoculars, and eye glasses take plural verbs.Examples:
- These binoculars are new.
- The scissors were made in Freetown
NOUNS OF AMOUNT When a noun refers to an amount that is considered one unit, it is singular. When it refers to a number of individual units, it is plural
- Five Thousand Leones is the cost. (one unit)
- Seven Thousand Leones are in her pocket. (Individual Leone bills)