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Subject Verb Agreement-1: Definition; tricks & examples

Here are the rules and tricks for subject-verb agreement for CAT Verbal Ability Section.

In this article, we will explore some handy rules related to Grammar that you can use in verbal ability section of CAT or other B-school Exams and score some vital marks. These tricks are sure to enhance your speed and accuracy in the exam.

English Grammar is an extremely vast topic and it is very important for you to study the relevant rules that will help you gain the maximum marks in your upcoming exams. Remember, it is not about covering all of it, but studying the relevant bits. Verbal ability section of majority of the MBA entrance exams feature grammar part - error questions based on subject - verb agreement.

Revise the basics:

The verb conveys to us the action or state of the doer or receiver in the sentence. The doer of the verb (that is the one who carries out the verb) is called the subject of the sentence. The receiver of the verb is the object of the sentence.

By default, the subject and object of the sentences are nouns or pronouns in a sentence.

Definition of the subject- verb agreement: A subject must agree with its verb in number.

    What does this mean? This has two implications:
  • A singular subject takes a singular verb.
  • Plural subjects take plural verbs.
Tricks for Subject-Verb Agreement

Trick 1: When two subjects are joined by 'and'

If two subjects are joined with the conjunction 'and', the verb is generally plural in nature. For example: Ram and Shyam are going to the market.
But remember the exceptions to this rule: If two singular nouns are joined with 'and' but refer to single person or item, then the singular verb is used. For example: Ham and eggs is my favorite dish.
Since there is reference to a single dish in this case (which has two items), the verb in this case is singular. Other such combinations where we use a singular verb are: rice and curry, horse and carriage, hammer and sickle, bread and butter, etc.
Also, in other example: The party-chief and mayor of the city, has worked on this project.
In this case, the verb is singular in nature as the reference is to a single person and not two people.

TRICK 2: If a singular or plural subject is joined with an additive phrase (such as: as well as, in addition to, along with, together with, accompanied by, etc.), the verb is decided on the basis of the first subject.

Let's take up a sentence example for this rule:

Incorrect sentence: Ritesh, as well as his brothers, are going to watch the match.
Correct sentence: Ritesh, as well as his brothers, is going to watch the match.

At the first glance, you may be tempted by the incorrect version of the sentence but on closer observation and following the rule in this case, you will realize that the verb needs to agree with the subject, Ritesh. Additive phrases do not count when it comes to deciding the subject of the sentence. What happens if the subject of the sentence was reversed? That is, the sentence was like:

Ritesh's brothers, as well as Ritesh, are going to watch the match
The verb in this case is going to be plural as the subject of the sentence (Ritesh's brothers) is plural.

TRICK 3: When two subjects are joined by either-or, neither-nor or not only-but also, then, the verb is decided on the basis of the subject nearest to it.

Let's take up a couple of sample sentences to understand this case.

Sentence 1: Either the students or the teacher needs to explain the situation.

Sentence 2: Not only my mother but her sisters are also pushing for my marriage.

In the first sentence, the subject of the sentence is the singular noun teacher and therefore the sentence takes up the singular verb needs. In the second sentence, the subject of the sentence is the plural noun sisters and therefore the verb is plural in nature, i.e., are.

Remember, if the subjects were reversed in the above sentences, the verbs would be reversed too.

TRICK 4: Always remember that, when either and neither are used as pronouns, they are treated as singular and always take the singular verb. This might be case even when they seem to be referring to two things.

A couple of examples for this rule are:

Sentence 1: Either of the books is fine for CAT preparation.
Sentence 2: Neither of the books is fine for CAT preparation.

TRICK 5: The verb is always singular after each of/either of/neither of/everyone of/one of, etc.

Let's take up a couple of examples to understand this:

Sentence 1: Each of the boys is ill-disciplined.
Sentence 2: Either of the tables is fine with me.

In these two sentences, you can see that even though the noun referred to in the sentence (boys or tables) is plural, the verb is singular in nature. Do remember this rule.

Watch the Achievers video on Subject verb agreement to grasp all the concepts in one go

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Subject- Verb Agreement: Key Learning
  • The article provides the basics and the tricks to understand the grammar rule and solve the question of Subject- Verb Agreement.
  • Take tests, watch videos and using the basic rules of grammar, attempt the questions accurately.

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