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Subject Verb Agreement Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 22, 2011

Tip

When you use the conjunctions or or nor, the subjects are thought of as separate units, and therefore take a singular verb. The same is true for plural subjects joined by or or nor, except that the verb used will be plural.

Note that when the conjunction and is used, the verb is plural. That is because with and, the subjects are looked at as equals, and become compound. So, the verb must be plural. NOTE: There are some exceptions to this. Some compound subjects are looked upon as a single unit. For example: spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly.

What do you do if you have a sentence that contains a singular and a plural subject? Deciding whether to use a singular or plural verb may seem tricky, but the solution is quite simple. Whichever subject is mentioned last in the sentence, whether singular or plural, determines the correct verb to use:

      Is it the cats or the dog that is making such a commotion?
      Is it the dog or the cats that are making such a commotion?

Indefinite Pronouns

Words such as anybody, someone, most, and none are very general when referring to people, places, or things. They are called indefinite pronouns. With only a handful of exceptions, it is pretty simple to tell whether most indefinite pronouns are singular or plural.

Like any other pronoun, a singular indefinite pronoun takes a singular verb, and a plural one takes a plural verb. Some indefinite pronouns can be both, so the noun that the indefinite pronoun refers to determines the appropriate verb.

      Most of the glasses are broken.
      Most of the glass is broken.

An exercise for this concept can be found at Subject Verb Agreement Practice Exercise.

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