Subject-Verb Agreement

Posted: March 27th, 2014, 9:20 am   By: brittany.corners

“Marge, we had an agreement. Your sisters don’t come here after six, and I stop eating your lipstick.”—Homer driving a hard bargain, as always

This week, we explain subject-verb agreement.

Subjects and verbs go together like morons and Mountain Dew—and agreement means matching a given subject to the right form of a verb. In English, this process is simple: Singular subjects get singular verbs, and plural subjects get plural verbs.

  • Ex) Chantal makes me want to brush my teeth with cyanide toothpaste.
  • Ex) Her rats make me want to brush my teeth with cyanide toothpaste.

Compared to other languages, we get off easy. In Spanish present tense, verbs usually take six different forms, depending on the subject. For example, vomitar can become vomito, vomitas, vomita, vomitamos, vomitáis, or vomitan. Hungarian, the native tongue of the greatest female serial killer of all time, takes agreement to another level: verbs have to match with both subjects and objects.

Although we’re lucky to avoid that kind of hassle, writers still need to be careful in making sure their subjects and verbs agree. Consider the following tricky situations:

  • Compound subjects: If nouns are connected by “and,” use the plural verb.
      Ex) Chantal and her husband are beyond the help of a marriage counselor.
  • Collective nouns: Because they indicate a single unit, use singular verbs. Examples of collective nouns include class, crowd, group, and team.
      Ex) Chantal’s family is insane for not fleeing the house.
  • Pronouns: words like each, either, neither, everyone, anybody, nobody, someone, and such are singular and require a singular verb.
  • There: When using “there is” or “there are,” make sure the verb agrees with the subject following the verb.
      Ex) There is a concern about Chantal’s mental health.
  • Phrases between the subject and verb: Stay focused on the subject, not the information around it, and match the verb appropriately.
      Ex) Chantal, who really thinks rats smell like nachos, needs to get her olfactory senses examined.

So … do we agree to agree?