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Subject-verb Agreement

This file is collected from Nasrin Parvin miss’s lecture. She is a wonderful instructor.

You already know that subjects and verbs agree in number.

My sister is married.  (singular)

My sisters are married. (plural)

My brother and I are single. (plural)

Subject-verb agreement is sometimes confusing in the following situations:

  1. When a sentence begins with the word there + verb be, the subject follows the be verb. Look ahead to see whether to use a singular or plural verb.

There is a student in the hall. (The verb is is singular to agree with a student.)

There are three students in the hall. (The verb are is plural to agree with three students.)

There was no reason for his action.

             There were many reasons for his success.

  • A prepositional phrase (a group of words beginning with a preposition such as of, with, in, at, or on and ending with a noun or pronoun) can come between a subject and its verb. Prepositional phrases may come after a subject, but they are not part of the subject. You should mentally cross them out when you are deciding if the verb should be singular or plural.

One of my sisters is a singer. (The subject is one, not sisters.)

The color (of her eyes) changes when she is angry. (The subject is color, not eyes.)

Six kinds (of rice) are available in the grocery store. (The subject is kinds, not rice.)

  • Some words are always singular.

One (of my brothers) is a musician.

Neither (of my parents) is living.

Much (of my time) is spent in the library.

Each (of my brothers) wants his own car.

Either (of my sisters) is able to baby-sit for you tonight.

Nothing ever happens in my life.

Is anyone home?

  • A few words are always plural.

Both (of my parents) are teachers.

Several (of the teachers) speak my language.

Many (of my friends) work in the library.

  • A few words can be either singular or plural. In these cases, you must refer to the noun in the prepositional phrase.
  • Some (of the money) was missing. (singular)
  • Some (of the students) were missing. (plural)
  • All (of my time) is spent in the library. (singular)
  • All (of my brothers) are singers. (plural)
  • Most (of the ice) was melted. (singular)
  • Most (of the ice cubes) were melted. (plural)
  • A lot (of the work) was too easy. (singular)
  • A lot (of the people) were angry. (plural)
  • None (of the fruit) is fresh. (singular)
  • None (of the apples) are fresh. (plural)

Practice 1

Underline the subjects with one line and the verbs with two lines. Put parentheses (  ) around prepositional phrases.

  1. My name is Roberto Sanchez.
  2. I was born on September 21, 1978 in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  3. I am a student of Greenhills College in Boston, Massachusetts.
  4. Some of my classes are difficult.
  5. Some of the homework is boring.
  6. A lot of my classes are in Dante Hall.
  7. A lot of my time is spent in the student lounge.
  8. My father works in an office.
  9. None of my brothers are married.
  10. None of the money was stolen.
  11. My youngest brother are sister are still in high school.
  12. My father understands English but doesn’t speak it.
  13. In South America, most of the people are Catholic.
  14. Neither of my parents has been to the United States.

Practice 2

In each sentence, underline the subject with one line. Then cross out the incorrect verb form.

  1. One of my classmates (is/are) from my country, El Salvador.
  2. Some of the teachers (speak/speaks) my language.
  3. Each of the gifts (was/were) carefully wrapped in gold paper.
  4. One of the words on the test (was/were) misspelled.
  5. A lot of my classes (was/were) canceled last week.
  6. A lot of my time (is/are) spent in the library.
  7. In my country most of the people (want to go/wants to go) to college.
  8. (Do/Does) anyone know the correct time?
  9. There (is/are) several kinds of flowers in the bouquet.
  10. There (wasn’t/weren’t) any electricity in our building last night.
  11. The noise from the firecrackers (was/were) loud.

Practice three: Editing practice

Find and correct six errors in subject-verb agreement in the following paragraph.

     Golf is no longer the sport of the rich, middle-aged, white man. Young people around the world is taking up the game, and some of them is taking it over. One of the young stars are Sergio Garcia, a fascinating young golfer from Spain. Sergio was born in 1980 and started playing golf at the age of 3. He became a professional golfer in 1999 at the age of 19. Sergio became famous by hitting a golf shot at a target from behind a tree with his eyes closed. Two other young golf stars are Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie. Both Tiger and Michelle started playing golf at very young ages, and both has ethnic backgrounds. Tiger, born in California in 1975, is Thai-African-American-Native-American. Michelle, born in Hawaii in 1989, is Korean-American. Each of these two young Americans have shocked the world of golf in different ways. Tiger shocked everyone by becoming the best golfer in the world while still in his early twenties. Michelle shocked everyone by competing against men—and beating many of them—at the age of fourteen. It is clear that all three of these young golfers has great futures ahead of them.