The Key to Subject-Verb Agreement


You may not recognize it by name, but subject-verb agreement is something you do in every sentence. In fact, it’s the foundation of every sentence and when there’s disagreement between the two, the sentence sounds strange.

You probably don’t need a reminder of what roles subjects and verbs play in a sentence, but just so that we’re all on the same page, here’s a brief overview. Take the following sentence for example:

Christopher likes ice cream.

As you probably guessed by now, the subject in the sentence above is “Christopher” and the verb is “like.” Most native English speakers know this intuitively, but many don’t know why. Here are the basics.

A singular subject takes a singular verb

The test is easy.

A plural subject takes a plural verb

The tests are difficult.

In a phrase, the verb must agree with the subject before the “of”

Garden of roses

The subject in the phrase above is “garden” not “roses” which means it’s singular. Therefore, a sentence that uses the phrase above should also be singular.

The garden of roses smells good.

If we were just talking about roses then we would say “The roses smell good.” The difference between “smells” and “smells” completely depends on the subject.

Use singular verbs for when you have two singular subject connected either/or, or neither/nor sentences

Either Rick or John hates cotton candy.

Use a plural verb when two or more subjects are connect by and.

Pizza, soda, and ice cream make a perfect meal.

Now that you have the basics down, you should have no problem figuring out what type of verb to use in a sentence. Good luck!

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