Subject Verb Agreement

Subject Verb agreement can be tricky for many people. As a matter of fact, one of the common comments teachers write on student essays is, “Watch your subject verb agreement!”

If you’ve ever had a comment like that written on one of your essays or if you’d just like to brush up on your subject verb agreement rules, here some tips that are sure to help.

What is subject verb agreement?

Subject verb agreement refers to the fact that the subject and verb in a sentence must agree in number. In other words, they both must be singular or they both must be plural. You can’t have a singular subject with a plural verb or vice versa. The tricky part is in knowing the singular and plural forms of subjects and verbs.

Singular and plural subjects, or nouns, are usually pretty easy. In most cases the plural form of a noun has an “s” at the end. Like this:

Car – singular

Cars – plural

Verbs don’t follow this pattern, though. Adding an “s” to a verb doesn’t make a plural. Here’s what I mean:



Which one is the singular form and which is the plural form? Here’s a tip for you. Ask yourself which would you use with the word they and which would you use with he or she.

He walks.

She walks.

They walk.

Since he and she are singular pronouns walks is a singular verb. The word they is plural so walk is the plural form.

Here are some more guidelines for subject verb agreement.

1.  When two singular subjects are joined by the words or or nor a singular verb is in order.

My sister or my brother is meeting you at the airport.

2.  Two singular subjects joined by either/or or neither/nor also need a singular verb.

Neither Carla nor Jeff is available to meet you at the airport.

Either Angie or Jeff is meeting at the airport.

3.  When the word and connects two or more nouns or pronouns, use a plural verb.

She and her family are at Disney World.

4. When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb.

The athlete or his teammates sprint every day.

His teammates or the athlete sprints every day.

5. When a phrase comes between the subject and verb, the verb has to agree with the subject, not with the noun or pronoun in the phrase.

Two of the puppies are whimpering.

The birthday boy, along with his friends, is anxious for the party to stop.

6. Since doesn’t is a contraction of does not it should be used with a singular subject.

Mary doesn’t care for pizza. 

Don’t is a contraction of do not and requires a plural subject.

They don’t know the way home.

7. Each, either, each one, everyone, neither, everybody, anyone, anybody, somebody, nobody, someone, and no one are singular so they need a singular verb.

Each of the girls is qualified for the prize.

Neither knows how the competition will end.

8.  Sentences that begin with there is or there are have the subject following the verb since there is not a subject. Therefore, the verb must agree with what follows it.

There are many paths to success.

There is one road out of town.

Subject verb agreement doesn’t have to riddle your writing with errors. Simply follow the above rules and you’ll cut through a lot of the confusion that comes with getting your subject and verb to agree.