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Write with confidence: 35 Subject-verb rules you need to know

Write with confidence: 35 Subject-verb rules you need to know

You've heard the phrase "practice makes perfect," but when it comes to grammar, there are certain rules that you must commit to memory in order to prevent costly mistakes. Don't make these mistakes, learn these 45 rules of subject-verb agreement and never worry about incorrect grammar again.

When it comes down to it, subject-verb agreement is all about making sure that the verb agrees with the subject. Getting this right can be tricky, especially when you're dealing with plural nouns or singular collective nouns. But don't worry! You won't have to spend hours memorising complex rules and regulations—we'll make this fun and approachable.

Pro tip: Bookmark this article for future reference!

35 rules of subject-verb agreement

  • Rule 1: A singular subject requires a singular verb.

Example: The cat is sleeping.

  • Rule 2: A plural subject requires a plural verb.

Example: The cats are sleeping.

  • Rule 3: Indefinite pronouns (such as anyone, someone, everyone, etc.) are treated as singular and require a singular verb.

Example: Everyone wants to go to the party.

  • Rule 4: Some indefinite pronouns (such as both, few, several, etc.) are treated as plural and require a plural verb.

Example: Both of the cats are sleeping.


What’s the difference between Rule 3 and Rule 4 - since they are so similar?

Well…Do you know what pronouns are? They are words we use to talk about people or things without saying their names.

Now, there are some special pronouns that we call "indefinite pronouns". These are words like "someone", "anyone", "everyone", and others like that.

When we use these words in a sentence, we have to use a special rule. The rule is that we use a singular verb with these words. That means we say "wants" instead of "want".

But, there are some other indefinite pronouns like "both", "few", and "several". When we use these words in a sentence, we have to use a different rule. We have to use a plural verb with these words. That means we say "are sleeping" instead of "is sleeping".

So, to remember it simply, when we use certain words like "everyone" we use a "singular verb" like "wants". But when we use words like "both" we use a "plural verb" like "are sleeping".


  • Rule 5: Singular verbs end in -s or -es in the third person singular (he, she, it).

Example: She sings beautifully.

  • Rule 6: Plural verbs do not end in -s or -es in the third person plural (they).

Example: They sing beautifully.

  • Rule 7: Compound subjects joined by and require a plural verb.

Example: The cat and the dog are sleeping.

  • Rule 8: When a singular subject is joined by or or nor to another singular subject, the verb agrees with the nearer subject.

Example: Either the cat or the dog is sleeping.

  • Rule 9: When a singular subject is joined by or or nor to a plural subject, the verb agrees with the nearer subject.

Example: Neither the cat nor the dogs are sleeping.

  • Rule 10: Collective nouns (such as team, group, audience, etc.) are treated as singular or plural, depending on the context and meaning of the sentence.

Example: The team is playing well. (singular) The team are all very talented. (plural)

  • Rule 11: Titles of books, movies, and other works that are singular require a singular verb.

Example: The Lord of the Rings is a great book.

  • Rule 12: Titles of books, movies, and other works that are plural require a plural verb.

Example: The Harry Potter movies are very popular.

  • Rule 13: Fractions that are singular require a singular verb.

Example: One-half of the pie is gone.

  • Rule 14: Fractions that are plural require a plural verb.

Example: Two-thirds of the students are here.

  • Rule 15: Expressions of time, money, and measurement that are singular require a singular verb.

Example: Five dollars is not enough.

  • Rule 16: Expressions of time, money, and measurement that are plural require a plural verb.

Example: Two hours have passed.


Now you may ask: Why five dollars is seen as singular in rule 15, but two hours is seen as plural in rule 16?

That’s because, in English grammar, the rule is that singular subjects take singular verbs, while plural subjects take plural verbs. In the case of expressions of time, money, and measurement, whether they are singular or plural depends on the context in which they are used.

When we use an amount of money or a measurement as a subject, it is considered singular because we are referring to one quantity. For example, "Five dollars is not enough" refers to a single amount of money, which is why "is" is used as the singular verb.

On the other hand, when we use an expression of time or measurement that is inherently plural, such as "two hours," it is considered plural and requires a plural verb. For example, "Two hours have passed" refers to two separate units of time, so "have" is used as the plural verb.

In summary, whether an expression of time, money, or measurement is considered singular or plural depends on whether we are referring to one quantity or multiple quantities.


  • Rule 17:  Words such as each and every require a singular verb.

Example: Each student has a textbook.

  • Rule 18: Words such as some, several, and many require a plural verb.

Example: Many students have textbooks.

  • Rule 19: When the subject is an infinitive (to + verb), the verb is singular.

Example: To sing is my favourite activity.

  • Rule 20: When the subject is a gerund (a verb ending in -ing), the verb is singular.

Example: Singing is my favourite activity.

  • Rule 21: In sentences beginning with here or there, the verb agrees with the subject that comes after the verb.

Example: There are five cats in the yard, or, Here comes the bride, all dressed in white.

  • Rule 22: Inverted sentences (sentences in which the subject comes after the verb) still require subject-verb agreement.

Example: Upset was the cat when it was woken up.

  • Rule 23: Subjects joined by as well as or along with do not change the verb form.

Example: The cat, as well as the dog, is sleeping.

  • Rule 24: When a phrase or clause comes between the subject and the verb, the verb agrees with the subject, not the noun in the phrase or clause.

Example: The cat, along with its toys, is sleeping.

  • Rule 25: When using collective nouns, if the group is acting as a single unit, the verb is singular. If the individuals in the group are acting separately, the verb is plural.

Example: The team is playing well. (singular because they are acting as a unit) The team are arguing among themselves. (plural because they are acting separately).

  • Rule 26: When using an expression of quantity (such as many, several, few, etc.) with a countable noun, the verb should agree with the countable noun.

Example: Many cats are sleeping.

  • Rule 27: When using an expression of quantity (such as much, little, a lot, etc.) with an uncountable noun, the verb should be singular.

Example: A lot of water is needed for this recipe.

  • Rule 28: When a subject is a collective noun that can be considered either singular or plural, the verb can agree with either the singular or plural meaning of the noun.

Example: The jury has reached its verdict. (singular, treating the jury as a single unit) The jury are discussing their individual opinions. (plural, treating the jury members as individuals).

  • Rule 29: When a subject is a noun that ends in -s but is singular (such as mathematics, news, politics, etc.), the verb should be singular.

Example: Politics is a difficult subject to discuss.

  • Rule 30: When a subject is a noun that refers to a single thing made up of two or more parts (such as scissors, pants, glasses, etc.), the verb should be plural.

Example: These glasses are stylish.

  • Rule 31: When using a compound subject joined by "and," the verb should be plural.

Example: Tom and Jerry are playing outside.

  • Rule 32: When using a compound subject joined by "or," the verb should agree with the subject closest to it.

Example: Either the cat or the dogs are responsible for the mess.

  • Rule 33: When using a compound subject joined by "nor," the verb should be singular if both subjects are singular; if one subject is plural, the verb should be plural and agree with the plural subject.

Example: Neither the cat nor the dogs are responsible for the mess.

  • Rule 34: When using a subject that consists of a prepositional phrase, the verb should agree with the subject that follows the preposition.

Example: The book on the table belongs to me. (The verb "belongs" agrees with "book," the subject after the preposition "on.") or, The cars in the parking lot need to be washed. (The verb "need" agrees with "cars," the subject after the preposition "in.")

  • Rule 35: When using a subject that is a non-count noun (such as furniture, equipment, etc.), the verb should be singular.

Example: The furniture in the room was rearranged.

To summarise, subject-verb agreement rules are important in writing to ensure that the sentence is grammatically correct. For plural subjects, use a plural verb; for singular subjects, use a singular verb. Additionally, when using a prepositional phrase as the subject, use the verb that agrees with the subject after the preposition. Lastly, when using a non-count noun as the subject of your sentence, always use a singular verb. Keeping these rules in mind will help you create clear and accurate sentences in your writing.

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