1. All parts of a sentence should agree. In general, if the subject is singular, the verb should be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb should be plural.
The following indefinite pronouns are singular and almost always take a singular verb form:
The following “group” words, collective nouns, take a singular verb if you are writing of the group as a whole, but they take a plural verb if you are writing of the individuals in the group:
Some nouns are plural in form but singular in meaning and take the singular verb.
Some nouns ending in ics (athletics, politics, acoustics, statistics) are singular when referring to an organized body of knowledge; they are plural when they refer to activities, qualities, or opinions.
2. When two nouns or constructions are joined by and to form a single unit, that single unit takes a singular verb.
3. When compound subjects are joined by correlatives (two-part connectives: either . . . or; neither . . . nor; not only . . . but) or by or or not, the verb agrees in number with that part of the subject that is closer to the verb.
4. Be careful when the subject is a word like each, every, none, either, neither, no one, and nobody, especially when followed by a plural object of a preposition.
5. Be careful when several words come between the subject and verb.
6. Be careful when the normal subject-verb order is inverted.
7. Be careful when the subject is a phrase or clause acting as a unit.
8. When a clause starts with who, which, or that, the verb agrees with the noun or pronoun to which who, which, or that refers.
9. Phrases containing mathematical calculations usually take a singular verb.
Aaron, Jane E. The Little, Brown Compact Handbook. 5th ed. New York: Pearson and Longman, 2004.
Glazier, Teresa Ferster. The Least You Should Know about English: Writing Skills. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1994.
McMurray, David. “Subject-verb Agreement.” Power Tools for Technical Communication.
Sebranek, Patrick, Verne Meyer, and Dave Kemper. Writers Inc. Burlington, WI: Write Source Educational Publishing House, 1992.
Troyka, Lynn Quitman and Douglas Hesse. Quick Access. 5th ed. Upper River Saddle, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.
Anastasia Lankford ©2004
(Reprinted here with permission)
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