The subject of a sentence is a person, place, thing or idea that is doing or being something. Typical sentence constructs follow a subject + verb + direct object formula. When a sentence has two or more subjects, it's called a compound subject.
Compound subjects are joined by "and" or "or" and, perhaps, a series of commas. In the compound subject examples below, you'll find many different ways to vary these sentence constructs.
Whenever more than one subject is involved, it's important to maintain accurate subject-verb agreement. Simply put, the subject and verb must agree in number. A singular subject looks like this: Mary likes watermelon. A plural subject looks like this: Mary and Mark like watermelon. Notice how the verb changes to align with the subject.
In rare cases, a compound subject can sometimes be treated as singular. For example, "My son and heir will rule this kingdom." In this sentence, "son" and "heir" refer to the same person. Generally speaking, however, compound subjects will be treated as plural and take a plural verb:
- Dolphins and elephants are highly intelligent creatures.
- Eating, sleeping, and reading are enjoyable activities.
- Both men and women enjoy yoga.
- Chocolate and strawberry are my two favorite flavors of ice cream.
- Furniture and paper are two uses for wood.
- Roses, gardenias, and jonquils bloom in Beatrice's garden.
- Both Tom and I are going on a cruise.
- Nobody who went and nobody who watched online liked the presentation.
- Toy Story and Cars are movies created by Pixar.
- Tsunamis and hurricanes endanger people living near the coast.
- Both the players and coaches were satisfied with the game.
- Everybody who witnessed the shooting and everybody in the room was interviewed.
- Red, white, and blue are the colors of the American flag.
- Both Argentina and Brazil are in South America.
- Both John and George work at the steakhouse on Carver Street.
Here comes the fun. Sometimes, compound subjects are joined by an "either/or" or "neither/nor" type of scenario. In these instances, the verb will agree with the subject that is closest to the verb. Let's take a look:
- Neither the president nor her assistant has replied to the accusation.
- Mom or Sharon will bring the dessert.
- Either you or your friend needs to tell me what happened.
- Neither the toy by the door nor the shoes in the living room need to be put away.
- The sofa or the chair will have to be moved to the den.
- Neither yellow nor red matches that comforter.
- Baked goods or fried foods are not healthy for you.
- Either all of us or none of us go to the party.
- Neither the basement nor the bedroom has been vacuumed.
- Either fish or chicken is served at the cafeteria daily.
- Hot soup or crackers will help you feel better.
- The florist or I deliver flowers to the gallery each day.
- Abby or Lionel will attend the meeting and report back.
- Either the monkeys or the giraffes are getting a new habitat at the zoo.
Let's have fun with more sentence examples involving compound subjects. But, before we do that, it's important to point out our comma usage in a list of nouns. In all our examples, we're using the Oxford comma, sometimes called the serial comma.
Whenever there's a list of three or more items, we're separating the last item in the list with a comma before the "and" or "or." Take a look at Oxford Comma: Do You Need to Use It? and feel free to disagree with us. Not everyone deems it necessary. Here's a look:
- Rachel, Kim, and Stacy are all on vacation in Peru.
- Friendship, honesty, and love are important.
- My books, pencils, and journals fit neatly in my backpack.
- Jennifer, Georgina, and Amelia run faster than the rest of the class.
- Greece, Turkey, and Morocco are on my bucket list.
- The toothbrush on the sink and the hairbrush by the rollers need to be put away.
- Both my toothbrush and hairbrush need to be replaced.
- Neither the cupcakes nor the brownies will be ready by noon.
- Neither the pink blouse nor the blue one has any wrinkles.
- Either you or I will collapse if we don't start walking more slowly.
- Either the cupcakes or brownies are baking right now.
- Either Taylor or Ryan is going to go with you to prom.
- Either the brown puppy or the tan one is getting adopted.
- Everything in the back seat and in the trunk needs to come in the house.
- Nobody in the airport and nobody on the plane talked to him.
- Anyone in my class and anyone in Mr. Kwan's class will be a first-rate writer.
Compound subjects introduce an array of new components to sentences. They allow for further specificity and detail. Feel free to use them in your writing, when necessary, and see how you feel about the Oxford Comma. In the meantime, scan through these 15 Sentences Using Compound Subjects and Compound Verbs. They'll help you continue to master the craft of well-built and easy-to-read sentences.