Subject Verb Agreement - 2: Tips & Tricks

This article explains the fundamentals to learn Subject Verb Agreement at an advanced level. The first part of the Subject Verb agreement covers the basics for the topic and explains what subject-verb agreement means. This article is the advanced part of the topic and will give you more clarity on how to solve such questions in various competitive exams.
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Revision of Basics
These are some important points you need to keep in mind for this topic:
Subject: Doer of the verb.
Object: Receiver of the Verb
Verb: Action or state in a sentence.
Basic rule of subject verb agreement: A subject must agree with its verb in number.
This has two implications:
A singular subject takes a singular verb.
Plural subjects take plural verbs.
Let's explore some interesting tips and tricks of subject verb agreement and extend your learning.
Subject-Verb Agreement: Advanced Tricks
Trick 1: Some indefinite pronouns are considered singular and require singular verb forms.
The following is the list of indefinite pronouns: anyone, anybody, anything, No one, nobody, nothing, someone, somebody, something, everyone, everybody, everything, whatever and whoever.
Example: Everyone wants to watch the movie. (Notice the singular verb 'wants' in this case).
A sentence which uses 'want' in the plural form is: Ram and Sham want to the movie.
Trick 2: Five indefinite pronouns can be either singular or plural, depending on the usage.    
Which are these pronouns? These are the SANAM pronouns: Some, Any, None, All, More / Most. You can use this handy mnemonic, SANAM, to keep this in mind.
Now the important thing is the basis on which we decide whether the noun is singular or plural. There is one simple rule that is followed here:
  • If the noun is a countable noun (nouns for which the plural form exists), then the verb is plural.
  • If the noun is an uncountable noun (nouns for which only the singular forms exists), then the verb is singular.
Let's take up some example sentences to understand how this works.
Examples using Countable Nouns:
Sentence 1: Some of the girls are going out.
Sentence 2: Most of the glasses were broken.
We can see in both these cases that the nouns are plural in nature (girls and glasses) and therefore the verb is plural in nature (are and were). Now let's take up the example of uncountable nouns.
Examples using Uncountable Nouns:
Sentence 1: Some water is needed.
Sentence 2: Most of the money was lost.
In this case, we can see that water and money are uncountable nouns (these cannot be counted and the plural form does not exist for these words). Considering this, the verbs are singular in nature.
Trick 3: After many/a great many/a good many, etc., the noun is always plural, which is followed by a plural verb.
Example: A great many girls are following fashion trends these days. (Here the plural noun 'girls' is followed by the plural verb are.)
Trick 4: After 'a number of/a large number', the noun and verb in the sentence are always plural.
Example: A number of soldiers have lost their lives on the border. (Here the noun 'soldiers' is used in the plural form and the verb 'have lost' is also plural in nature.)
Trick 5: After 'the number', the noun is plural but the verb is singular.
Example: The number of soldiers at the border is large.
This time, even though the noun soldiers is plural, the verb in the sentence ,'is', is singular in nature. The reason for this is that we are referring to a singular number in this case.
Trick 6: Collective nouns may take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on their use in the sentence.
If collective nouns are acting as a unit, use a singular verb. If the sentence implies that the individual members are taking up different actions, we use a plural verb.
Before we understand this rule, let's understand what collective nouns are. Collective noun is the name we give to a group of nouns to refer to them as one entity. Some examples for collective nouns are:
  • A class of students.
  • An army of soldiers.
Now that you know what collective nouns are, let's take two sentences to understand how they operate.
Sentence 1: The committee is discussing the issue of safety in the neighborhood.
Sentence 2: The committee are disagreeing on the issue on the installing street lamps.
We can see from the above examples that even though we have used the same collective noun, we end up using a different verb. The reason for this is very simple. In the first sentence, the collective action of the collective noun is the same; there is no division among the members of the collective noun. In the second case, this is not so. There is agreement and the members of the collective noun have different actions.
Trick 7: Some words, such as news, measles, mumps, physics, etc. are extremely deceptive. They end in -s and appear to be plural but are really singular and require singular verbs.
  • The news from across the border is not encouraging.
  • Physics is a fascinating subject.
We can see that each of these uses a singular verb.
Trick 8: The verb in the subjunctive mood always takes the plural verb, even if the subject is singular in nature.
The plural verb 'were' replaces 'was' in sentences that express an unfulfilled wish, desire or condition. These sentences are build using if, as if, as though, I wish, etc.
The obvious question in your mind should be: what is the subjunctive mood of the verb? The subjunctive mood of the verb expresses an unfulfilled wish, desire or condition. Generally, these sentences are built using if, as if, as though, I wish, etc. Let's take up some sentence examples to understand this rule:
  • If I were the mayor of the city, I would have done so much for the poor.
  • I wish I were a king.
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Subject- Verb Agreement: Key Learning
  • This article presents a handy set of tricks for the subject- verb agreement.
  • The obvious way to become perfect in solving the questions is to follow the tricks and tips by our expert and practice as much as you can.
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