English Notes: Subject-Verb Arrangement

Mentor for Bank Exams
English Notes: Subject-Verb Arrangement
'Subject-Verb Agreement' is one of the most confusing aspects of the English language. It is not always easy to distinguish between singular subjects and plural subjects. It is difficult due to the irregularity of English plural subjects; many are not marked with an "s" at the end. There are several rules to follow, and some of them just require practice so that they become familiar.
Some Important Rules in Subject-Verb Agreement:
1. Two or more singular subjects joined by 'and' take a plural verb.
a) Tobacco and alcohol are injurious to health.
b) Aluminum and iron are useful metals
2. Sometimes two subjects represent one idea, and then the verb is singular
a) Slow and steady wins the race
b) Rice and dal is my favorite dish
3. If two singular nouns refer to the same person or thing, the verb must be singular.
a) The Principal and Correspondent has arrived
i) If the article is used only once, the two nouns refer to the same person. So the verb must be used in singular.
ii) If the article is mentioned twice, two distinct persons are intended and so verb following must be in the plural number.
b) The Principal and the Correspondent have arrived
4. When singular nouns connected by 'and' are preceded by 'each' or 'every', they are followed by singular verb.
a) Each man and each woman was given a certificate.
b) Every officer and every soldier has to be ready to face the situation.
5. When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by 'or', 'nor', 'either...or' or 'neither'...nor', we should use a singular verb.
a) Neither he nor she has any right to my property.
b) Either Lohit or Vineet has done this mischief.
6. When two or more subjects are connected by or/nor and one of the subjects is plural, the verb must be plural and the plural subject should be placed nearest the verb
a) Either the boy or his parents are responsible for the incident
b) Neither the Principal nor the lecturers were residing in the quarters.
7. If two subjects joined by 'or/nor' are of different persons, the verb agrees in person with the subject nearer to it.
a) Either you or Naik has to take the responsibility.
b) Neither she nor I have money to spare for you.
8. The words 'each', 'each one', 'either', 'neither', 'everyone', 'everybody', 'anybody', 'anyone', 'nobody', 'somebody', 'someone', and 'no one' are singular and require a singular verb.
a) Each of these oranges is juicy.
b) Neither of the applicants is suitable for the job.
'None' is construed in the singular or plural as the sense may require.
a) I wanted to buy many fruits but there were none in the market.
b) Have you brought me a letter? There was none for me.
When the singular equally well expresses the sense, the plural is commonly used.
a) None of her relatives are known to me
b) None of his novels are popular.
9. Some nouns are plural in form, but singular in meaning. They should be followed by singular verbs
Subjects: Mathematics, Economics, Physics, Politics, Linguistics, Mechanics, Statistics etc.
Diseases: Mumps, measles, rickets etc.
Games: Billiards, Caroms, Gymnastics, Athletics, Innings, Series etc.
Miscellaneous: News
a) The news is too good to be true.
b) Economics is an interesting subject
10. Some nouns are always plurals and have no singular form. They always take Plural Verbs.
Scissors, tongs, goggles, binoculars, pants, jeans, trousers, shorts, socks, shoes, alms, ashes, annals, thanks, caves, riches, savings, earnings, refreshments, quarters, arrears, assets, statistics(data), outskirts, premises, surroundings, stairs, proceeds, remains, circumstances etc.
a) The scissors are very sharp.
b) My trousers are made of wool.
11. Some collective nouns are used with singular verbs when they are used as body or group and not as members.
Ex: Audience, board, committee, crowd, family, jury, ministry, mob, police, public, staff, team etc.
a) The jury has elected its President.
Note: But when the above nouns denote members or individuals, the plural verb is used.
b) The jury were divided in their opinion.
12. Some nouns are generally used in the singular form only and they are not used with plural verbs:
Ex: Advice, luggage, hair, machinery, information, bread, equipment, alphabet, furniture, baggage, cash, scenery etc
a) The information about him is false.
b) Her hair is very long.
13. Some sentences begin with the formal subject 'There' and the real subject comes after the verb. The verb agrees with the real subject that follows.
a) There are many books on the table.
b) There is a book on the table.
14. Expressions such as 'with', 'along with', 'together with', 'including', 'accompanied by', 'in addition to', 'besides", 'but' 'except, 'rather than' or 'as well as' do not change the number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is also singular.
a) Rajani unlike her friends is very simple
b) He, not his sons, is the real culprit.
15. When two subjects are joined by 'not only...but', 'not only...but also...' the verb agrees with the second subject in number and person.
a) Not only Raghu, but I am also responsible for the loss.
16. When a plural noun denotes some specific quality or quantity considered as a whole, the singular verb is used.
a) Twenty thousand rupees is not a bad salary.
b) Gulliver's Travels is an interesting book.
17. Often, due to the 'Error of Proximity', the verb is mistakenly made to agree in number with a noun near it instead of its proper subject. This should be avoided as shown below.
a) The percentage of honest politicians are very less nowadays. (×)
b) The percentage of honest politicians is very less nowadays. ()
18. When we are talking about an imaginary situation i.e. a wish or supposition (unreal past), plural verb is used even with a singular subject.
a) If I were you I would accept the proposal.
19. When a word or a phrase in apposition is used the verb is guided not by the apposition but the real subject.
a) I, Venkat, am working as a lecturer.
20. 'Many a' and 'More than one' are followed by a singular noun and are considered singular.
a) Many a soldier was killed in the war.
b) More than one boy was absent for the class.
21. When the subject is 'One of', followed by a plural noun, it is considered singular. Here the verb agrees not with the plural noun but with 'One'.
a) One of the boys sings well.
b) He is one of the boys who sing well.