Subject and Verb Agreement


General rule:  In English, the verb must agree with its subject in number and person. In other words, the verb must be of the same number and person as the subject.

Note:  In the correction of sentences part of many competitive examinations the S - V concord is usually tested.

Rule 1:  Two or more singular nouns when they are joined by ‘and’, require a Verb in the Plural
Examples:  
A man and his wife has come here asking for work  
A man and his wife have come here asking for work  

Exceptions: 
(a)  When two singular nouns joined by and refer to the same person or thing, the verb is singular.
Examples:
The great scholar and poet are dead  
The great scholar and poet is dead  

The District Magistrate and Collector are on leave today.  
The District Magistrate and Collector is on leave today  

Notes:
 i.  Article ‘The’ article is used only once when the two nouns refer to the same person or thing.
ii.  If the nouns refer to different persons or things, article ‘The’ is used before each noun. In such cases, the verb will be in the plural form.
Examples:
The Secretary and the president has been giving warm welcome  
The Secretary and the president have been giving warm welcome  

(b)  If two different singular nouns express one idea, the verb should be in the singular form.
Examples:
Slow and Steady win the race  
Slow and Steady wins the race  

Rice and curry are my favourite dish  
Rice and curry is my favourite dish  

(c)  When two singular subjects are practically synonymous the verb should be in the singular form.  Power and position, Peace and Prosperity, Law and order etc.
Examples:
The law and order situation in the state are under control  
The law and order situation in the state is under control  

His power and influence are on the decline  
His power and influence is on the decline  

Rule 2:  When two or more Singular Subjects are connected by or, nor, either ... or, neither ... nor, the Verb is Singular:
Examples:
Either james or John are to be promoted  
Either james or John is to be promoted  

Neither the man nor his wife have done much work  
Neither the man nor his wife has done much work  

No boy or girl are allowed to play in school  
No boy or girl is allowed to play in school  

Exceptions: 
When the subjects joined by ‘either - or’ neither - nor’ are of different persons, the verb will agree in person and number with the nearest one to it. Also, the plural subject must be placed nearest to the verb. (This is very important)
Neither you nor he are to take up this task  
Neither you nor he is to take up this task  

Either the Chief Minister or the Cabinet Ministers is responsible for this problem.  
Either the Chief Minister or the Cabinet Ministers are responsible for this problem.  

Either you or I are responsible for this mistake. 
Either you or I am responsible for this mistake.  


Rule 3:  If two singular subjects (combined by and) are preceded by each or every, the verb should be in the singular.
Examples:
Every boy and girl were present in the class yesterday.  
Every boy and girl was present in the class yesterday. 

Rule4:  If with, together with, as well as, accompanied by etc are used to combine two subjects the verb agrees with the subject mentioned first.
Examples:
The President of India together with his personal secretaries are invited to this function  
The President of India together with his personal secretaries is invited to this function  

The actress, along with her manager and some friends, are invited to the function  
The actress, along with her manager and some friends, is invited to the function  

Mr. Micheal, accompanied by wife and children are arriving tonight by train  
Mr. Micheal, accompanied by wife and children is arriving tonight by train  

Note:  If the conjunction "and" is used instead, the verb would then be plural.
Compare
(i) Sushma and Rajitha are our professor’s daughters  
(ii) The study of languages and sciences is very important for your study.   
Here study is singular so singular verb "is" is used.

Rule 5:  When ‘not only ....... but also’ is used to combine two subject, the verb agrees with the subject close to it.
Examples:
Not only silver, but also gold are mined in this country  
Not only silver, but also gold is mined in this country  

Rule 6:  None / No.  None can take either a singular or plural verb depending on the noun which follows it
Structure:  none + of the + non-count noun + singular verb
Examples:
None of the counterfeit money have been found  
None of the counterfeit money has been found  

Structure: none + of the + plural count noun + plural verb
Examples:
None of the students has finished the exam yet  
None of the students have finished the exam yet  

No can take either a singular or plural verb depending on the noun which follows it.

Structure:  No + singular noun + singular verb
No example is relevant to this case  

Structure: no + plural noun + plural verb
No examples are relevant to this case  

Rule 7:  Many words indicating a number of people or animals are singular. The following nouns are usually singular. In some cases they are plural if the sentence indicates that the individual members are acting separately.
congress, family, group, committee, class, organisation, team, army, club, crowd, government, jury, minority, public

Examples of collective nouns:

The committee have met and accepted the proposal  
The committee has met and accepted the proposal 

The family were happy at the news  
The family was happy at the news  

The crowd was wild with excitement  
Congress has initiated a new plan to combat inflation  
Our team is certain to win the match 
The family living next door often quarrel among themselves 

Rule 8:  Majority can be singular or plural. If it is alone it is usually singular, if it is followed by a plural noun, it is usually plural.

The majority believe that the country can progress  
The majority believes that the country can progress  
The majority of the lecturers believes that the student has not copied in the examination  
The majority of the lecturers believe that the student has not copied in the examination  
         

Rule 9:  A number of / the number
Observe the two structures:
(i)  a number of + plural noun + plural verb.
(ii)  the number of + plural noun + singular verb.
Examples:
 A number of students is going to the class picnic  
A number of students are going to the class picnic 

The number of days in a week are seven  
The number of days in a week is seven  

The number of residents who have been residing in this colony is quite small  
A number of the applicants have already been interviewed  

Rule 10:  Collective nouns indicating time, money, and measurements used as a whole are singular and take a singular verb.
Examples:
Twenty-five rupees are not such big amount for him 
Twenty-five rupees is not such big amount for him 

Two miles are too much for this man to run 
Two miles is too much for this man to run 

Rule 11:  When a lot of, a great deal of, plenty of, most of, and some of refer to number, a plural verb is used.
Examples:
A lot of people was present in the gallery some of the students were absent  
A lot of people were present in the gallery some of the students were absent  

Note : If these expressions refer to an amount, the verb is in the singular number.
A lot of work has to be completed before we go  
A great deal of work has been finished  

Rule 12:  When the percentage or a part of something is mentioned with plural meaning the plural verb is used.
Examples:
30% of Indian women is literate  
30% of Indian women are literate  

Rule 13:  ‘Barracks’, headquarters, ‘whereabouts’ ‘alms’ etc. take a singular verb, as well as the plural verb.
Examples:
The headquarters of the UNO is / are New York 

Rule 14:  In sports, while referring to the players, the name of the country is followed by plural verb.
Examples:
England has won the World Cup  
England have won the World Cup.  

Rule 15:  When the ‘enemy’ is used in the sense “armed forces” of a nation with which one’s country is at war, we have to use the plural verb.
Examples:
The enemy were forced to retreat.  

Rule 16:   Whenever a number of adjectives qualify the same person or thing, then these may be placed after the noun and the verb must quality immediately preceding subject.  who, which, that are relative pronouns. You simply substitute the noun in this place and read the question.
It is I who has to learn a lesson. 
It is I am has to learn a lesson.  
It is they who has to leave this place.  
It is they who have to leave this place.  
One of the songs that has been broadcast is really marvelous.  
One of the songs that have been broadcast is really marvelous.  
A girl or a boy who do not strive to gain their objectives, is bound to fail.  
A girl or a boy who doesn't strive to gain his or her objectives, is bound to fail.  
There is not a single book out of the lot that are not interesting. 
There is not a single book out of the lot that is not interesting.