Subject-verb Agreement
Lesson 2

Subject-verb agreement

If a verb does not agree with its subject in number, you have the error called subject-verb disagreement. You want to correct the error so that you will have subject-verb agreement!

Positive and negative expressions

When there is a negative expression in a sentence, the verb always agrees with the positive expression.

 His brother, not his nephews, was found criminally responsible for the shooting.

The word nephews is part of the negative expression not his nephews, so it cannot be the subject of the sentence.

Predicate nominative

There are three cases for pronouns in English. Note that the subjective case is also called nominative case.

CaseSingularPlural
Nominative (subjective) I, you, he, she, it we, you, they
Objective me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them
Possessive my, your, his, her, its our, your, their

The nominative (subjective) case is the form of the noun or pronoun that is used as the subject of a sentence. It is also the case which is used after a linking (connecting) verb.

 He was not the man that stopped the robber.

He is the subject of the verb was, and it is the nominative (subjective) case because it is the subject of the sentence.

There are linking verbs and action verbs. Linking verbs require the nominative (subjective) case after them while action verbs require the objective case.

 The man who stopped the robber was he.

Though this may sound strange to the uneducated, it is grammatically correct. Was is a linking verb, so the nominative (subjective) form of the pronoun he has to be used after the linking verb.

Money

When a sum of money is used as the subject of a sentence, it requires a singular verb because the money is considered as one unit.

 Five dollars is too much to pay for the lottery ticket.

Five dollars is an amount of money.

 That amount is too much to pay for the lottery ticket.

Distance

When a measurement of distance is used as the subject of a sentence, it requires a singular verb because distance is considered as one unit.

 Three miles is the distance from our house to the park.

Time

When a period of time is used as the subject of a sentence, it requires a singular verb because time is considered as one unit.

 Three hours is a long time when you are waiting for someone.

Weight

When a weight is used as the subject of a sentence, it requires a singular verb because weight is considered as one unit.

 One hundred pounds is not too heavy to lift.

Volume

When a volume is used as the subject of a sentence, it requires a singular verb because volume is considered as one unit.

 Ten gallons of gasoline was spilled on the highway.

The number, a number

The verb in a sentence after the number is singular.

 The number of automobile accidents is increasing each year.

The verb in a sentence after a number is plural.

 A number of accidents were reported this summer.
Practice

Choose the correct answer for each of the practice sentences below by clicking on the correct answer.

  1. Joe, not the Brown brothers, (was, were) issued the parking ticket.
  2. Of all the leaders at the camp, it was (he, him) who was most popular.
  3. Twenty-five cents (is, are) a fair price for a lemonade drink.
  4. Five kilometers (is, are) too far to walk to school.
  5. A number of people (was, were) disorderly during the concert.

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