Subject Verb Agreement : 12 Most Important Rules With Examples

The topic, ‘subject-verb agreement’ is common through all entrance exams be it banking or MBA. It is one of the very important topics in the English language/ verbal ability section.

In this post, we list down the most important rules, explained with examples. These will not only aid your preparation but will also come in handy at the time of revision.

The underlying rule is that the subject and verb must agree with each other in number.

1. Third person (he/ she/ it), singular number requires ‘-s’ or ‘-es’ form of the verb. 

Example:-

He swims.

2. When the subject and verb are separated by a long phrase or a clause, the verb must agree with the actual subject (and not that of the phrase/ clause).

Example:-

The chocolates that she gave to the children were very delicious.

Here, the main subject is ‘chocolates’. Thus, the verb should agree with ‘chocolates’ and not ‘children’.

3. When the subject is a phrase begins with, ‘one of‘, the verb that follows is singular.

Example:

One of my teachers lives in the USA.

One of my t-shirts is missing.

4. When two nouns in a sentence refer to the same person or thing, the verb that follows is singular.

Example:-

 The dramatist and the politician, are presiding over the function. 

‘The dramatist’ and ‘the politician’ are the two nouns refering to the same thing (i.e. the meeting) and hence, the verb used is ‘are’.

Note that, had the sentence been as follows, the verb would have been ‘is’, as in that case, politician and dramatist would be considered as a single noun.

The dramatist and politician, is presiding over the function.

5. When two nouns are synonymous, they are followed by a singular verb.

Example:-

Law and order is deteriorating in this city.

Their power and infulence is immense.

6. When two nouns, though not synonymous, express the same idea, they are followed by a singular verb.

Example:-

Bread and butter is usually his first meal of the day. 

7. Nouns such as shoes, trousers, scissors, binoculars, spectacles etc. are followed by a plural verb, BUT if they sentence, begins with the phrase, “A pair of”, a singular verb follows.

Example:-

My shoes are hurting my feet.

A pair of leather shoes is quite costly. 

8. Uncountable nouns, such as: furniture, equipment, stationery, poetry, machinery, information etc. are always followed by a singular verb.

Example:-

The stationery that we use in the office is of high quality.

9. If a collective noun is used in the sentence, and it is spoken of as a single/ united entity, a singular verb follows. BUT if individual members are being referred to, or the group is divided, in that case, a plural verb follows.

Example:-

Their army is very disciplined.

The army are taking positions.

10. When two nouns are connected by:-

a) phrases like accompanied by, in addition to, as well as, along with etc., the verb agrees with the first noun.

Example:-

The students as well as the teacher are unaware of the new marking scheme. 

Here, ‘students’ and ‘teacher’ are the two nouns. The verb should agree with the first noun, which is ‘students’.

b) ‘either or’, ‘niether nor’, the verb that follows, must agree with the noun that is nearest to it.

Example:-

Niether the monitors nor the Principal is responsible for this.

Niether the Principal nor the monitors are responsible for this.

11. An indefinite pronoun is always followed by a singular verb.

Example:-

Everybody loves her.

Someone is banging the door.

12. The verb that follows a relative pronoun, takes it’s number from the noun that preced the relative pronoun.

Example:-

This is best decision that has been made by the council.

Here, ‘that’ is the relative pronoun. so, according to the rule the verb (has) will take it’s number from the noun (decision) that preceds ‘that’.

Hope this helps you in your preparation for the exams.

All the best.