English: Subject-Verb Agreement

The subject-verb agreement is an important English area tested in most standardized exams. Understanding the basics of this concept is extremely important if you want to do well in the English section of the exam. In this article, we break down the subject-verb agreement concept for test takers.

Like most English concepts, the subject-verb agreement has certain rules. Understanding them will help you when you tackle questions on the subject in the exam.

Subject-verb agreement rules:

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The most basic rule is that a singular subject will take a single verb, while a plural subject will take a plural verb.

For instance – The bag is black/ The bags are black.

When it comes to the present tense, the subject and the verb affect plurals differently.
For instance – Cheetah runs fast/Cheetahs run fast.
However, in the past tense, the rules do not apply when not accompanied with helping verbs. In case of helping verbs such as have and has, the rule will apply to them.

In case of two single subjects connected by ‘either/or’ or ‘neither/nor’, you require just a single verb. However, with ‘and’ you need to use a plural verb.

Sometimes words such as ‘along with’, ‘as well as’ which provide additional information about the subject, can confuse test takers. In such a case, ignore words and phrases not part of the subject. Stick to the first rule in such a scenario.

A subject usually comes before the word ‘of’ in the sentence. This is a common confusion among test takers. Use this rule to guide your answer. In case of sentences that indicate an amount, the verb is guided by the noun after ‘of’.

There are special cases such as group nouns and plural form words with singular meanings. When using group nouns such as club and company, use the singular verb form with it. When using plural sounding words such as news, remember that it is considered a singular word and will use a singular verb.

Remember these concepts when you are practising problems and taking practice tests. You will exposed to many related problems in your exam. While these statements look easy when the verb is close to the subject, the complexity increases when the two are far apart as it happens in compound subjects. Prepositional phrases and clauses such as ‘that’, ‘who’ also confuse the test takers. Make sure to identify the subject first before attempting to determine the verb that goes with it.

Attempt a few prep questions.

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