Subject-verb Agreement
Lesson 5

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!

Collective nouns

A collective noun is a word that refers to a group of people, animals, or things.

Collective nouns include army, class, crowd, fleet, flock, gang, group, herd, pack, staff, and team.

Collective nouns can be singular or plural depending on the context of the sentence.

Collective nouns: individuals

If members of the collective noun are acting individually, the collective noun is plural and a plural verb is required.

 After the practice the team shower before heading home.

Each team member is doing his own thing, so a plural verb shower is required.

Collective nouns: groups

If members of the collective noun are acting in unison, the collective noun is singular and a singular verb is required.

 The team was playing late into the evening.

The team members are working in unison, so a singular verb was playing is required.

Note: In your writing, if you are not certain whether a collective noun is singular or plural, you have the option of placing another word before the collective noun, such as, the players on the team. Now the subject is players, which is plural, so you know you have to use a plural verb.

Fractions

Fractions can require a singular or a plural verb, depending on the context of the sentence.

If the fraction tells us how much, it requires a singular verb.

 Three-fourths of the pie was eaten.

If the fraction tells us how many, it requires a plural verb.

 Three-fourths of the pies were eaten.

Percentages

Percentages can require a singular or a plural verb, depending on the context of the sentence.

If the percent tells us how much, it requires a singular verb.

 Fifty percent of the pie was eaten.

If the percent tells us how many, it requires a plural verb.

 Fifty percent of the pies were eaten.

Foreign nouns

There are some plural nouns that we seldom see in the singular form. Therefore, it seems as if there is no other form of the word.

Singular Plural
crisis crises
criterion criteria
datum data
die dice
medium media
memorandum memoranda
nucleus nuclei
phenomenon phenomena
stimulus stimuli
stratum strata

Media is plural so it requires a plural verb

 The media presents the news without bias.

 The media present the news without bias.

Data is plural so it requires a plural verb.

 The data does not confirm his thesis.

 The data do not confirm his thesis.
Practice

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

  1. The herd of cattle (was, were) grazing in the pasture.
  2. Three quarters of the tiles (was, were) damaged when they arrived.
  3. The medium (is, are) the word, according to Marshall McLuhan.
  4. The flock of geese (was, were) flying across the sky in a V-formation.
  5. The data that he collected (is, are) invalid as scientific evidence.

Test your skill

Now that you have studied the rules of subject and verb agreement, it is time to test your knowledge of these rules. Click on the button to the right to take a test of 20 sentences in which you apply these rules.

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