this week with a very brief review of subject/verb agreement
before we get to the tricky part of it.
two main parts to a sentence, a subject and a
predicate. In order for a sentence to make sense to the
reader, the subject (who or what) and the verb have to agree
in number. Number refers to whether a word is
singular or plural.
try some basic subject/verb agreement examples:
My dog Dixie (play, plays) fetch
Because Dixie (the subject) is
singular, the verb must also be singular.
My dog Dixie
fetch every morning.
2.) Susie and Jack (eat,
eats) Chinese food every Saturday.
subject of the sentence (Susie and Jack) is plural, the verb
must also be plural.
Chinese food every Saturday.
Subject/verb agreement can be tricky when the subject of
a sentence involves indefinite pronouns. Indefinite
pronouns can be either singular or plural, which is why they
can be so tricky for writers. The indefinite
pronouns each, one, anybody,
everybody, either, and neither may appear
to be plural, but all of them are actually singular, meaning
“every single one.” Therefore, in the present tense, they
take the –s form (or singular form) of the verb.
Now, let’s try some examples with
1.) It is very important that
everyone (works, work) hard on this project.
BE CAREFUL HERE! Remember,
although everyone appears to be inclusive of all of
us, which would make it plural and make work the most
popular answer choice, everyone actually means
every single one.
Correct Ex.: It is important that
hard on this project.
2.) Neither of the students
(want, wants) to go to the bookstore--textbook prices are
is the subject of a sentence, the verb should be singular.
Note that this is true even when neither is followed
by a prepositional phrase that includes a plural noun.
The prepositional phrase "of the students" may clarify the
subject (who the neither is, in other words), but the
plural noun in the prepositional phrase doesn't affect the
subject of the sentence, so the singular subject neither
takes a singular verb wants.
Ex.: Neither of students wants
to go to the bookstore--textbook prices are too high.
In cases when the pair "neither
. . . nor" is used, the plurality of the verb used will
depend upon the subject nearest to the verb. If the subject
nearest to verb is singular, the verb will be as well.
And, if the subject nearest to the verb is plural, then the
sentence will need a plural verb.
the teacher nor the students (know, knows) if today
is art or music day.
Therefore, we look at the
students and make our verb choice based on whether that
word is singular or plural.
Correct Ex.: Neither the
teacher nor the students
if today is art or music day.
3.) Anyone who wants to
take time off from work (need, needs) to contact his or her
supervisor for approval.
Once again, although anyone
appears to be inclusive of all of us, which would make it
plural and make need the most popular choice,
anyone actually means any individual person.
Correct Ex.: Anyone who wants to
take time off from work
to contact his or her supervisor for approval.