The rules you learned in grammar school seems pretty straightforward: when it comes to subject-verb agreement, use a singular verb with a singular subject and pair a plural subject with a plural verb. Right?
WRONG. In fact, this isn’t always the case. Here are some common subject-verb scenarios to watch out for when you make your final grammar check.
The pronouns everyone, nobody, anyone, someone and no one are both indefinite and always singular. They should be paired with a singular verb.
- No one has left the building.
Another type of indefinite pronoun, which includes words like some and all, is considered singular or plural depending on whether can count what is being referred to.
- All of the writers are here.
- All of the air is displaced.
The indefinite pronoun, none, can also be either singular or plural. The deciding factor is when none means “not any” as opposed to “not one.”
- None of the air is displaced.
- None of the writers are here.
Compound subjects — most often occurring as the result of adding and — are plural and, generally, require a plural verb. An exception is when the compound subject is really indicating a single noun.
- Jen and John are on the team.
- Homemade spaghetti and meatballs is his favorite dinner.
Even though either and neither appear to be referring to two things, these pronouns are actually singular.
- Neither of the dogs is leaving this weekend.
- Either chair is suitable for the event.
Want more grammar tips? Check out this post on proper colon usage, or this post on the top 3 mistakes made by marketing writers.
About the author
Katie S has been writing for many years, either for academic reasons or for her own pleasure. She has been a freelance writer, concentrating on crafting concise, interesting and exciting copy for a variety of clients in many different industries, including the fields of law, medicine, sports and more.