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Subject-Verb Agreement Rules and Examples

Juliann Urban, Charles Kinney, Jr.
  • Author
    Juliann Urban

    Juliann Urban has taught high school English for five years and has previously held the positions of English tutor for at-risk high school students and lead teacher at a private K-12 tutoring center. She holds a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in secondary education from Governors State University, an associate in arts degree from Moraine Valley Community College, and a professional educator license with senior high and middle school language arts endorsements.

  • Instructor
    Charles Kinney, Jr.
Learn the subject-verb agreement definition and understand the subject-verb agreement rules. Study these rules with subject-verb agreement examples and practice. Updated: 12/07/2021

What is Subject-Verb Agreement?

When writing or speaking, it is important to have subject-verb agreement within sentences. What is subject-verb agreement? Subject-verb agreement means that the subject and the verb of a given sentence agree in number with each other. In other words, if the subject of the sentence is singular, the verb should also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb should also be plural.

Subjects & Verb Agreement

What does it mean that the subject and verb should agree? In any sentence, we have a subject and a verb, and they must agree in number. If a subject is singular, then the verb should be singular, and if the subject is plural, then the verb should be plural.

  • She is running late.

'She' is singular and goes with the singular verb 'is.'

  • My friends are running late.

'My friends' represents a plural, and we use the plural verb 'are.'

Let's look at a couple more:

  • Singular: My dog barks at the squirrel.
  • Plural: My dogs bark at the squirrel.

Easy! Right? It can get a little more complicated.

Select the right verb form in this sentence:

  • The crowd (is/are) roaring for an encore.

'The crowd' would indicate a bunch of people and would represent a plural subject. But in this case, we have a rule that says when we use a subject that represents a collective group, we can treat it like a singular subject and, therefore, it takes a singular verb. The crowd is roaring for an encore would be the correct form.

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Subject-Verb Agreement Rules

When writing or speaking, there are certain rules one must follow in order to have proper subject-verb agreement. Problems with subject-verb agreement are often easy to spot. For example, consider this sentence: He want a bike. One does not have to know what subject-verb agreement is in order to realize that the sentence is problematic. A native English speaker instinctively knows that the verb "wants" should be used.

Read the sentences below. Pay attention to the verb form that is used.

  1. I jump.
  2. You jump.
  3. We jump.
  4. They jump.
  5. He jumps.
  6. She jumps.
  7. It jumps.
  8. John jumps.

Notice that the verb "jump" is used in sentences 1-3, but the verb changes form in sentences 4-8. According to the verb rules, when the subject of a sentence is in the third person singular (he/she/it/John) and the verb is in the present tense, -s or -es is added to the verb.

Irregular verbs are verbs that do not follow the pattern of adding -s or -es when a subject is in the third person singular. "To be" is an example of an irregular verb.

  1. I am.
  2. You are.
  3. We are.
  4. They are.
  5. He is.
  6. She is.
  7. It is.
  8. John is.

Notice how the verb in sentence #1 changes form in sentences 2-4 and again in sentences 5-8.

Subject-verb agreement seems simple enough, and it usually comes naturally. Some situations, though, are less straightforward. For example, what if the subject contains the word "and"? What if it contains the word "or"? In order to obtain proper agreement, it is helpful to know the various subject-verb agreement rules outlined in the next section.

Compound Subjects Using the Word "And"

A compound subject is two subjects that are joined by the word "and." In most cases, a plural verb should be used with a compound subject.

  • Fish and steak are my favorite foods.
  • Georgia and Jillian dance well.
  • That bracelet and necklace go perfectly with your outfit.
  • The teachers and the principal warn us to behave.

However, when subjects joined by "and" describe one thing or idea, a singular verb should be used.

  • Rock and roll is my favorite type of music.
  • Spaghetti and meatballs is my favorite dinner.
  • The Department of Health and Safety meets in that room.

Spaghetti and meatballs is considered a singular subject.

spaghetti

Distance, Time, and Money Use a Singular Verb

Subjects that contain distances, time, and money always use a singular verb, even if the noun is plural. Think of distances, time, and money as being one unit.

  • 1000 miles is a long way to go.
  • 4:30 AM is too early to wake up.
  • A deposit of two thousand dollars was required.

One of Something vs. Two or More of Something

When a subject uses the word "of," the noun before the "of" determines whether the verb should be singular or plural. In the examples below, the words "flock," "group," and "herd" act as a single unit even though the words "birds," "boys," and "elephants" are plural. Therefore, singular verbs are used in each sentence.

  • A flock of birds is flying over the houses.
  • A group of boys was playing basketball.
  • A herd of elephants is stampeding this way.

A flock is considered a singular subject.

flock

Exceptions to the "Of" Rule: A Lot, Some, & All

When a sentence uses the word "of" AND "a lot," "some," or "all," the noun after the "of" determines whether the verb should be singular or plural.

  • A lot of students were sick today. (The noun is plural.)
  • Some of this food is old. (The noun is singular.)
  • All of you are coming with us. (The noun is singular.)

Two Singular Subjects with "Or," "Either/Or," & "Neither/Nor"

When two singular subjects are connected with "or," either/or," or "neither/nor," a singular verb is used.

Subject-Verb Rules 1 Through 3

Here are some of the rules that will help you select the right verbs to go with different subjects:

1. Compound Subjects Using the Word 'And'

Sentences with two subjects use a plural verb unless we think of both subjects as one unit. For example, Sally and John are two subjects, and so we would say Sally and John are working late.

But, if I have a sentence with bacon and eggs, we treat this like a singular subject, and we say bacon and eggs is my favorite breakfast.

Here's some practice:

  • The Crown and Anchor restaurant (is/are) a popular place to eat.

Crown and Anchor is one restaurant. Our answer here is 'is.'

2. Distance, Time, and Money Use a Singular Verb

We use a singular verb with distances, time, and money when we think of them as a unit. For example:

  • 25 miles is too far to walk.
  • 500 dollars is a lot of money.
  • 12 PM is a good time for lunch.

Here's some practice:

  • Five one-dollar bills (is/are) on the table for each child.

In this case, the subject is talking about five distinct bills that each child will receive. Our answer is 'are.'

3. One of Something or Two or More of Something

Pay attention to subjects that use the word 'of.' For example, a herd of elephants is a subject that uses 'of.' When we see subjects that use the word 'of,' we have to determine whether the word before 'of' is singular or plural.

  • A group of tourists is on the bus.

'Group' indicates a singular unit of something. In this case, it is a collective of tourists, and we use a singular verb here.

Here's some practice for this one:

  • A pack of dogs (is/are) loose in the neighborhood.

'A pack' is singular. Our answer is 'is.'

Subject-Verb Rules 4 Through 6

4. 'A Lot,' 'Some,' 'All' are exceptions to the 'Of' Rule

In sentences that use 'a lot,' 'some,' or 'all,' the verb should agree with the word after the word 'of.'

  • A lot of homework is difficult.

Here's some practice for this one:

  • All of the players (is/are) going home.

Players are plural. Our answer is 'are.'

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Video Transcript

Subjects & Verb Agreement

What does it mean that the subject and verb should agree? In any sentence, we have a subject and a verb, and they must agree in number. If a subject is singular, then the verb should be singular, and if the subject is plural, then the verb should be plural.

  • She is running late.

'She' is singular and goes with the singular verb 'is.'

  • My friends are running late.

'My friends' represents a plural, and we use the plural verb 'are.'

Let's look at a couple more:

  • Singular: My dog barks at the squirrel.
  • Plural: My dogs bark at the squirrel.

Easy! Right? It can get a little more complicated.

Select the right verb form in this sentence:

  • The crowd (is/are) roaring for an encore.

'The crowd' would indicate a bunch of people and would represent a plural subject. But in this case, we have a rule that says when we use a subject that represents a collective group, we can treat it like a singular subject and, therefore, it takes a singular verb. The crowd is roaring for an encore would be the correct form.

Subject-Verb Rules 1 Through 3

Here are some of the rules that will help you select the right verbs to go with different subjects:

1. Compound Subjects Using the Word 'And'

Sentences with two subjects use a plural verb unless we think of both subjects as one unit. For example, Sally and John are two subjects, and so we would say Sally and John are working late.

But, if I have a sentence with bacon and eggs, we treat this like a singular subject, and we say bacon and eggs is my favorite breakfast.

Here's some practice:

  • The Crown and Anchor restaurant (is/are) a popular place to eat.

Crown and Anchor is one restaurant. Our answer here is 'is.'

2. Distance, Time, and Money Use a Singular Verb

We use a singular verb with distances, time, and money when we think of them as a unit. For example:

  • 25 miles is too far to walk.
  • 500 dollars is a lot of money.
  • 12 PM is a good time for lunch.

Here's some practice:

  • Five one-dollar bills (is/are) on the table for each child.

In this case, the subject is talking about five distinct bills that each child will receive. Our answer is 'are.'

3. One of Something or Two or More of Something

Pay attention to subjects that use the word 'of.' For example, a herd of elephants is a subject that uses 'of.' When we see subjects that use the word 'of,' we have to determine whether the word before 'of' is singular or plural.

  • A group of tourists is on the bus.

'Group' indicates a singular unit of something. In this case, it is a collective of tourists, and we use a singular verb here.

Here's some practice for this one:

  • A pack of dogs (is/are) loose in the neighborhood.

'A pack' is singular. Our answer is 'is.'

Subject-Verb Rules 4 Through 6

4. 'A Lot,' 'Some,' 'All' are exceptions to the 'Of' Rule

In sentences that use 'a lot,' 'some,' or 'all,' the verb should agree with the word after the word 'of.'

  • A lot of homework is difficult.

Here's some practice for this one:

  • All of the players (is/are) going home.

Players are plural. Our answer is 'are.'

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is subject-verb agreement and examples?

Subject-verb agreement means that the subject and the verb of a sentence agree in number with each other. If the subject is singular, the verb should also be singular. (I am going.) If the subject is plural, the verb should also be plural. (They are going.)

What is a subject-verb agreement in writing?

Subject-verb agreement means that the subject and the verb of a sentence agree in number with each other. If the subject of the sentence is singular, the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.

What are the basic rules of subject-verb agreement?

Some rules of subject-verb agreement are:

  • Compound subjects joined by "and" usually use a plural verb. However, when subjects joined by "and" describe one thing or idea, a singular verb should be used.
  • Distance, time, and money use a singular verb.
  • When a subject uses the word "of," the noun before the "of" determines whether the verb should be singular or plural.
  • When a sentence uses the word "of" AND "a lot," "some," or "all," the noun after the "of" determines whether the verb should be singular or plural.
  • When two singular subjects are connected with "or," either/or," or "neither/nor," a singular verb is used.
  • When two plural subjects are connected with "or," either/or," or "neither/nor," a plural verb is used.

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