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Improve Your Grammar: Subject-Verb Agreement Part 2

Updated: Feb 21


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Introduction - Improve your grammar



This article continues the series on subject-verb agreement.


You may like to refresh your understanding of the topic by reading Part I first.


So, to continue…


When there is more than one subject


Sometimes there is more than one subject in a sentence.


So, there are special rules to follow to deal with this. And they relate to the use of conjunctions, such as:


'and', 'or/nor', 'as well as', and 'along with'.


Let's look at each one in turn.

The conjunction 'and'


The rule: Use the plural form of the verb when the conjunction 'and' joins two subjects.


Bob and Jack are brothers.


In this sentence there are three subjects.


Colleges, high schools, and universities prepare students for employment.

The conjunctions 'or' and 'nor'


When two (or more) subjects are joined by 'or' or 'nor', the verb agrees with the subject that is closest to it.


The directors or the CEO decides how the company will develop.


(Although ‘directors’ is plural, ‘CEO’ is singular.


And because ‘CEO’ is closest to the verb, we use a singular verb form.


Here's another one:


Neither the photographer nor his assistants take part in the final design.


'Assistants' is plural and closest to the (plural) verb 'take'.

The conjunctions: 'as well as' and 'along with'

These phrases are not the same as 'and'.


They do not form a compound subject. The real or actual subject is before the interrupting expression.


Compare these two sentences that explain the difference.



India, China, South Korea, and Japan develop high-tech computer equipment. (plural verb)


China, as well as India, South Korea, and Japan, develops high-tech computer equipment. (singular verb)


Use this to help you decide: remove the clause beginning with 'as well as'.


China develops high-tech computer equipment.


It leaves no doubt that 'develops' is the correct verb form to use.



Special Subject Forms


Some subjects are not so easy to identify as plural or singular.


Indefinite pronouns and collective nouns are two such types.


Let us look at each type in turn. First, it's collective nouns.

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns refer to a group of things or people.


Here are some common examples.


club class


gang group


mob jury


club population


committee government


public company


team society


family association


band audience


crowd organisation/organization



Usually, each group acts as a single unit, so you must use the singular form of the verb.


The crowd is roaring.


The team is playing well.


The government is sitting in parliament this week.


An army marches on its stomach, they say.


‘Police’, however, is plural because the word ‘officers’ is implied but not stated.


The police (officers) have surrounded the building where the gunman is holed up.

Indefinite Pronouns

The second type of special subject forms is indefinite pronouns.


(Note that ‘type’ is singular, so requires a singular form of the verb – is.)


Indefinite pronouns refer to a general person, thing, or place.


Take a close look at this table.

Table of Indefinite Pronouns


Singular       another each nobody other


                    anybody everybody no one somebody


                    anyone everyone nothing someone


                    anything everything one something


Plural          few many others several both

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

Look at the following sentences.


Because the subjects are singular, the verbs need the third-person-singular form.


Almost everybody knows the American president.


One or more singular nouns (joined by and) can be placed after each and every.


Every student likes the new course.


Each girl and boy enjoys doing it.


Use the same 'trick' as before to help you decide on the correct verb form.


Each girl enjoys doing it.

Each boy enjoys doing it.

Each enjoys doing it.

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

As you can see from the table above, 'few', 'many', 'others', 'several', and 'both' are all plural subjects.


The verb is always plural.


A diplomat from Australia and another from Indonesia are sitting at the same table.


Both want a satisfactory conclusion to the trade dispute.



Conclusion


This has been the second in a series of articles that has examined subject-verb agreement.


I have explained the rules of subject-verb agreement when there is more than one subject.


As well, you have learned about special subject forms that involve:


  • indefinite pronouns

  • collective nouns

I have also included a quick and easy 'test' to help you decide on the correct verb form.


I hope you have found this article instructive. And that you have learned something more to improve your grammar.





Further Reading


You can read about two more subject-verb agreement forms as well as other useful articles to improve your grammar here.


Having good grammar should be an essential skill to getting good English.






© Apex English Tutoring 2021 - Updated January 2024




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About Me


Hello and welcome!


My name is Michael Finemore and I am the owner-operator of Apex English Tutoring.


As an experienced English Teacher, I'm passionate about helping people turn their 'poor' English into great English, with easy and effective ways to practice.






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