Subject-verb agreement

Problems with indefinite pronouns

The following is a list of most of the indefinite pronouns. They are considered singular:

no onenonebodyanybody
nobody         somebody         everybody         

The following indefinite pronouns may be singular or plural depending on the context of the sentence. Each is singular if it refers to a total quantity; each is plural if it refers to a number of individual items that can be counted.

some           most           all           none           any

Some of the scenery was destroyed in the fire. (quantity)
Some of the tickets were destroyed in the fire. (number)

Most of our show is hilarious. (quantity)
Most of our singers are excellent musicians. (number)

All of the performance was a sheer delight. (quantity)
All of the seats in the auditorium were filled. (number)

If the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

Problems with interrupters

Do not be distracted by words and phrases (especially prepositional phrases) that appear between the subject and the verb of a sentence. In the following sentences, the interrupting word or phrase has been underlined.

One of the songs causes us problems.
None of the men in our family of singers was responsible for the destruction in the hotel suite.
The bus, loaded with barbershoppers, was late.
The leads, who don't know how to sing thirds, are the problem.

Problems with compounds

Compound subjects joined by the word and are considered plural.

Good vowel matching and good breath support make singing much more dynamic.

Singular words joined by "or" or "nor" to form a compound subject are singular.

Either Carl or Jesse knows the baritone part.

If a singular and a plural subject are joined by or/nor to form a compound subject, the verb agrees with the nearer subject.

Neither the director nor the members of the chorus know how to make the key change.
Neither the members of the chorus nor the director knows how to make the key change.

Problems with collectives

(see Pronouns--collectives)

A singular verb is used with a collective noun if the collective group is perceived to operate as a single unit.

The chorus is appearing in Racine next week.
The audience showed its appreciation by demanding a second encore.

A plural verb is used with a collective noun if the members within the collective group are perceived to be acting separately and individually.

The panel of judges were in disagreement about the use of foreign language lyrics.
The audience took their time returning to their seats after intermission.


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