Subject–Verb Agreement

Learn how to avoid grammar errors with subject–verb agreement.

Example errors

Look at the example errors below. Can you fix them?

Incorrect
– One of the patients were given the medicine.
– First-year students is often used in psychology studies.
– The funding that the researchers received were provided by the government.

What are the grammar rules?

1.  Verbs need to agree with their subjects. If a subject is singular, you need a singular verb. If the subject is plural, you need a plural verb.

– The participants were given a questionnaire.
– The researcher was surprised by the results.

2.  Be careful! Uncountable nouns such as information, advice and money take a singular verb.

– This information [U] is available on the website.

3.  With some phrases, subject–verb agreement is a little more complex.

One of the...
A plural noun is used after this phrase. However, the verb must agree with the subject, which is one.

Example:
One of the findings was that…
None of the…
If an uncountable noun comes after this phrase, you need a singular verb; if the noun is plural, use a plural verb.

Examples:
– None of the questionnaires were completed.
– None of the equipment was used.
… or… / … nor…
If a subject is made up of a singular noun and a plural noun joined by or or nor, the verb must agree with the second noun.

Examples:
– Neither the children nor the teacher was happy.
– Either the teacher or her students have to attend.
together with / as well as / including
If you use one of these phrases, make sure that the verb still agrees with the subject only.

Example:
The researcher, together with the confederate, was present at the meeting.

Corrected errors

Here are the corrected errors from the start of the lesson.

Incorrect Correct
– One of the patients were given the medicine. – One of the patients was given the medicine.
– First-year students is often used in psychology studies. – First-year students are often used in psychology studies.
– The funding that the researchers received were provided by the government. – The funding [U] that the researchers received was provided by the government.

Quiz

Try the questions below to test what you’ve learnt about subject–verb agreement.

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Select the correct form of the verb for each blank.

The formal study of economics began when Adam Smith published his famous book, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776. Many authors had written on economics in the centuries before Smith, but he was the first to address the subject in a comprehensive way. In the first chapter, Smith introduces the concept of division of labour, which that the way one a good or service divided into a number of tasks that different workers , instead of all the tasks being done by the same person.

Even a relatively simple business such as a restaurant the task of serving meals into a range of jobs including top chef, sous chefs, less-skilled kitchen help, servers to wait on the tables, a greeter at the door, janitors to clean up and a business manager who pay cheques and bills – not to mention the economic connections a restaurant with suppliers of food, furniture, kitchen equipment and the building where it is located. A complex business such as a large factory or a hospital potentially hundreds of job classifications.

__________

“Principles of Economics 3e” by OpenStax is licensed under CC BY 4.0. A small excerpt was extracted from Chapter 1 and edited. This textbook can be downloaded free from https://openstax.org/details/books/principles-economics-3e.

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Feedback

Click below for the answers.

The formal study of economics began when Adam Smith published his famous book, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776. Many authors had written on economics in the centuries before Smith, but he was the first to address the subject in a comprehensive way. In the first chapter, Smith introduces the concept of division of labour, which means that the way one produces a good or service is divided into a number of tasks that different workers perform, instead of all the tasks being done by the same person.

Even a relatively simple business such as a restaurant divides the task of serving meals into a range of jobs including top chef, sous chefs, less-skilled kitchen help, servers to wait on the tables, a greeter at the door, janitors to clean up and a business manager who handles pay cheques and bills – not to mention the economic connections a restaurant has with suppliers of food, furniture, kitchen equipment and the building where it is located. A complex business such as a large factory or a hospital potentially has hundreds of job classifications.