Intro: As you know, two of the most important words in a sentence are the subject and the verb. To make your sentence clear and grammatically correct, make sure that if your noun is singular your verb is also singular. If your noun is plural, your verb must also be plural. That’s a simple rule, but the trick is knowing whether the subject is singular or plural. The next trick is recognizing a singular or plural verb. Study each situation below to help you make sure your subjects and verbs agree.
To determine which verb is singular and which one is plural, think of which verb you would use with he or she and which verb you would use with they.
Example: talks, talk
Which one is the singular form? Which word would you use with he? We say, “He talks.” Therefore, talks is singular. We say, “They talk.” Therefore, talk is plural.
Sometimes the subject is separated from the verb by words such as along with, as well as, besides, or not. Ignore these expressions when determining whether to use a singular or plural verb.
The politician, along with his assistants, is expected shortly.
Excitement, as well as nervousness, is the cause of her shaking.
The pronouns each, everyone, every one, everybody, anyone, anybody, someone, and somebody are singular and require singular verbs. Do not be misled by what follows of.
Each of the girls sings well.
Every one of the cakes is gone.
With words that indicate portions—percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, and so forth —look at the noun in your of phrase to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the noun is singular, use a singular verb. If the noun is plural, use a plural verb.
Fifty percent of the pie has disappeared.
Fifty percent of the pies have disappeared.
One-third of the city is unemployed.
One-third of the people are unemployed.
All of the pie is gone.
All of the pies are gone.
Some of the pie is missing.
Some of the pies are missing.
None of the garbage was picked up.
None of the sentences were punctuated correctly
When either and neither are subjects, they always take singular verbs.
Neither of them is available to speak right now.
Either of us is capable of doing the job.
The words here and there have generally been labeled as adverbs even though they indicate place. In sentences beginning with here or there, the subject follows the verb.
There are four hurdles to jump.
There is a high hurdle to jump.
Use a singular verb with sums of money or periods of time.
Ten dollars is a high price to pay.
Five years is the maximum sentence for that offense.
Sometimes the pronoun who, that, or which is the subject of a verb in the middle of the sentence. The pronouns who, that, and which become singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them. So, if that noun is singular, use a singular verb. If it is plural, use a plural verb.
Salma is the scientist who writes/write the reports.
The word in front of who is scientist, which is singular. Therefore, use the singular verb writes.
He is one of the men who does/do the work.
The word in front of who is men, which is plural. Therefore, use the plural verb do.
Collective nouns such as team and staff may be either singular or plural depending on their use in the sentence.
The team is in a meeting.
(Team is acting as a unit here.)
The team are in disagreement about the findings.
(The team are acting as separate individuals in this example.)
This second sentence would read even better as: The team members are in disagreement about the findings.
For a worksheet to reinforce this concept, click on the link below: