The flock of birds is flying north
The agreement between the subject and the verb in a sentence is known as concord. The 'subject' of a sentence is the noun to which the verb in the sentence refers, and so the two must always agree in number: singular subjects must be paired with singular verbs; and plural subjects, with plural verbs. Though it may sound simple, it is tricky and these questions seem far more complicated, and confusing, than they actually are. Pay special attention to who or what is doing the action indicated by the verb, and make sure it agrees with the verb. Let us take a look at the rules which govern this.
- Phrases separated by and are plural; phrases separated by or or nor are singular.
This is a hard-and-fast rule. Memorize it.
My aunt or my uncle is arriving by train today.
A car and a bus are my means of transportation.
- Neither and either always take singular verbs when acting as the subject of a sentence.
When applied, this construction often strikes people as incorrect. It is not incorrect, but it is one of the grammatical conventions of written English that cannot be reasoned out from scratch. You must memorize this rule, and use it.
Neither of the rose bushes is as pretty as it was last year.
Either of us is capable of doing the work.
- Neither/nor and either/or are a special case. If two subjects are joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the subject that is closer to it.
Neither the supervisor nor the staff members were able to calm the distressed client.
- If the conjunction nor appears in a sentence with neither; or the conjunction or with either, then the "neither/either" rule as stated above no longer applies. In these constructions, "neither" and "either" function as conjunctions, working in pairs with "nor" and "or" to join two subjects in the sentence. When this occurs, the verb agrees with whichever subject is closer to it. This rule must also be memorized.
This sentence contains two subjects: "supervisor," and "staff members." Because they are joined by the correlative conjunction "neither/nor," the verb agrees with the subject closest to it: "staff members," which is plural. The plural verb "were" is therefore correct.
Either the parents or the child is going to talk to the principal.
This example is identical, grammatically, to the one above, except that the correlative conjunction joining the subjects is "either/or." The verb must therefore agree with the subject closest to it, which is "child," a singular noun. The proper verb form is the singular "is."
Note: Remember to apply this rule only when both items of the pairs "neither/nor" and "either/or" are present in the sentence.
Be careful to choose the right subject in sentences in which the verb precedes the subject.
- 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 the newsmen, is expected shortly.
Excitement, as well as nervousness, is the cause of her shaking.
- The pronouns each, everyone, 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 (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.
Fifty percent of the pie has disappeared. (Pie is the object of the preposition of and is singular).
Fifty percent of the pies have disappeared. (Pies is the object of the preposition which is plural, so plural verb).
One-third of the city is unemployed.
One-third of the people are unemployed.
- The expression the number is followed by a singular verb while the expression a number is followed by a plural verb.
The number of people we need to hire is thirteen.
A number of people have written on this subject.
- 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.
- Collective nouns, such as family, majority, audience, and committee are singular when they act in a collective fashion or represent one group. They are plural when the members of the collective body act as individuals.
A majority of the shareholders wants the merger.
In the sentence here, there is no indication that the sentence is referring to the individuals within the majority. The "majority" acts as one - as a singular entity - and therefore requires a singular verb, "wants."
The flock of birds are flying north. (Incorrect)
Again, the "flock of birds" is referred to as a singular group - we're not talking about each bird's direction of flight, but the direction of the flock as a whole - thus it requires the singular verb "is," not the plural verb "are."
The flock of birds is flying north.(correct)
The team are always fighting amongst themselves.
This is an example of a collective noun that requires a plural verb. While 'team' is often used as a singular collective noun, in this case, the sentence describes the fighting that occurs between the individual members of the team. "Team" therefore refers to several individual members, and requires a plural verb, "are," as a result.
The key to these questions is simplicity: recognize the collective noun, visualize what's going on in the sentence, and proceed.
Take a look at the following sentence and decide whether it is correct or incorrect:
Joseph, accompanied by his students, were at the studio.
There are three nouns in this sentence, (Joseph, students, and studio) and two verbs (accompanied and were). To clarify which noun is the subject and which verb it should agree with, cross out everything inside the commas:
Joseph, were at the studio.
Now we are left with
Joseph were at the studio.
The subject 'Joseph' is singular, so the verb must be singular. The correct sentence is:
Joseph, accompanied by his students, was at the studio.
- Neither she nor I are going to the festival.
- Neither Janaki nor the others is available.
- Karthik is the only one of those students who have lived up to the potential described in the yearbook.
- Either the physicians in this hospital or the chief administrator are going to have to make a decision.
- One of my best friends are an extra on Chelsea this week.
- Not only the students but also their instructor have been called to the principal's office.
- Everyone selected to serve on this jury are to be willing to giveup a lot of time.
- He seems to forget that there are things to be done before he can graduate.
- There has to be some people left in that town after yesterday's flood.
- Some of the grain appear to be contaminated.
- Neither she nor I am going to the festival. (The verb should agree with the subject that is closer to it so it is 'am').
- Neither Janaki nor the others are available (The verb should agree with the subject that is closer to it, 'others' is plural so it should take a plural verb).
- Karthik is the only one of those students who has lived up to the potential described in the yearbook. (The 'who' refers, in this case, to 'the only one,' which is singular, so the verb must be singular).
- Either the physicians in this hospital or the chief administrator is going to have to make a decision. (When subjects are connected by or, the subject closer to the verb which is, in this case, singular determines the number of the verb).
- One of my best friends is an extra on Chelsea this week. (The subject of this sentence is 'one,' which is, of course, singular. Don't let the intervening prepositional phrase with its plural 'friends' misguide you).
- Not only the students but also their instructor has been called to the principal's office. (With paired conjunctions such as either ... or and not only ... but also, the subject closer to the verb -- in this case, the singular 'instructor' -- determines whether the verb will be singular or plural).
- Everyone selected to serve on this jury is to be willing to giveup a lot of time. (Everyone seems to be a plural word, but it is always singular).
- Correct. The subject things, in this case comes after the verb in constructions that begin with here or there.
- There have to be some people left in that town after yesterday's flood. (The subject is people, which is plural, and that determines the verb not the word there).
- Some of the grain appears to be contaminated. (Some is the subject of this sentence and, since it is not really countable (you can't count the grain), it is singular).
Published date : 11 Apr 2014 11:21AM