What is subject-verb agreement? Subject-verb agreement simply means that the subject and verb in a sentence must agree in number. They both need to be singular, or they both need to be plural. Keep reading for subject-verb agreement examples in different kinds of sentences.
Subject-verb agreement means that the sentence is grammatically correct. Subject-verb agreement is usually more of a problem in present-tense sentences. Verbs in the past tense don't change as much when the number of the subjects change ("He walked" is the same verb form as "They walked," for example).
Here are some examples of subject-verb agreement in singular subjects and verbs (the subject is bolded and the verb underlined):
- My dog waits for the postal carrier.
- I understand the assignment.
- Peter likes vegetables.
Subject-verb agreement examples with plural subjects and verbs include:
- Basketballs roll across the floor.
- These clothes are too small for me.
- The cats meow at the door.
Compound subjects are two subjects in the same sentence. They usually take a plural verb, unless the combination is treated as singular in popular usage or the two subjects refer to the same thing or person.
Here are some examples of subject-verb agreement with compound subjects:
- Sugar and flour are needed for the recipe.
- Neither my dad nor my brothers know how to ski.
- Pepperoni and cheese are great on a pizza.
- Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional meal in Ireland. (popular usage)
- The creator and producer is arriving soon. (both refer to the same person)
When using “or” or “nor” in a compound subject containing a singular and plural subject, the verb agrees with the closest subject. Examples of compound subjects using or, neither-nor, or either-or include:
- My mom or dad is coming to the play. (both nouns are singular)
- Neither gray nor white is my favorite color. (both nouns are singular)
- Either Grandpa or my sisters are going to the park. (the closest subject is plural)
- Either my sisters or Grandpa is going to the park. (the closest subject is singular)
- Neither she nor I am going to college. (the closest subject is singular)
Indefinite pronouns stand in for nouns that are unknown, unclear or uncountable. They can be singular or plural, depending on what nouns they are replacing. Here are some examples of subject-verb agreement with singular indefinite pronouns:
- Each gets a trophy for playing.
- Somebody will pay for this.
- Anybody is more fun than you.
- Something feels very wrong here.
- Everybody enjoys a good book.
- Nothing has been determined as of yet.
When indefinite pronouns replace plural nouns, they require plural verbs. Examples of subject-verb agreement with plural indefinite pronouns include:
- Both are qualified for the job.
- Many went to the beach and got sunburned.
- Few know what it really takes to get ahead.
- Several are already on location.
- Some sugar is required for taste. (sugar is uncountable so singular verb used)
- Most of the cookies were eaten. (cookies are countable so plural verb used)
Subject-verb agreement isn't so hard when the subject and verb are next to each other. But what about when the subject is actually a noun phrase? You still need to determine whether the subject is singular or plural. Subject-verb agreement examples with noun phrases include:
- A theory of physics ascertains that a body in motion stays in motion.
- A virus in all the company’s computers is a real threat to security.
- The causes of this prevalent disease are bad diet and lack of exercise.
- The couch and chair I got at the store look really nice in here.
- The members of the choir are very happy with the performance.
Collective nouns, which are words that represent groups of nouns, are typically singular in American English. Here are some examples of subject-verb agreement examples with collective nouns:
- The committee meets here every Thursday.
- The crowd is getting angry.
- The jury has finally reached a decision.
- The majority rules most of the time.
- The staff has gone their separate ways for the holidays.
When subjects appear after verbs in the sentence, they're known as inverted subjects. Some subject-verb agreement examples with inverted subjects where the subject follows the verb:
- There are seven clean plates in the dining room.
- There is a hair in my lasagna.
- Over the rainbow flies a bird.
- How are the employees enjoying the new building?
- A good gift is a gift card.