Grammar: 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.

IncorrectCorrect
– 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

Using the present tense, complete each sentence using the correct form of the verb in brackets.
__________

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