Subject-Verb Agreement Rules

Rule 1

When two singular nouns refer to the same person or thing and have only one article or other qualifying word preceding them, the verb is singular.


  • The poet and scholar is dead.
  • My secretary and typist has just resigned.
  • Rabindranath Tagore, a great poet and novelist, was a versatile genius.

Rule 2

When two singular nouns are practically synonymous (having the same idea), the verb is singular.


  • His power and influence is beyond imagination.
  • Courtesy and gentlemanliness is the basis of a civilized society.

Rule 3

When two singular nouns, though not synonymous, express a single idea, the verb is singular.


  • Bread and butter is their staple food.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • The ebb and flow of the tides is over.

Rule 4

When the same singular noun is qualified by two contrasted adjectives so that two separate persons or things are thereby denoted, the verb is plural.


  • Mental and physical strength are required to face the challenges of life.

Rule 5

When a collective noun is used as a common noun, showing division, the verb is plural.


  • The Ministry are divided in their opinion.
  • A number of beautiful toys were displayed.
  • The crew of the aircraft were hijacked.
  • The majority of the members have resigned.

Rule 6

When a collective noun acts as one unit, the verb is singular.


  • The crowd moves forward.
  • The audience was restless.
  • A series of lectures has been delivered.
  • The committee has issued its report.

Rule 7

When the plural noun is a proper name for some collective unit, the verb is singular.


  • The United Nations has its headquarters in the U.S.A.
  • The Andamans is a group of islands.
  • The Arabian Nights is an interesting book.

Rule 8

When a plural noun denotes a period of time, an amount, a quantity considered as a whole, the verb is singular.


  • Ten rupees is not a large sum.
  • Three-quarters of the earth is water.
  • Six miles is a long distance.

Rule 9

When the nouns are singular in meaning through plural in form, the verb is singular.


  • The news is very encouraging.
  • Mathematics is a tough subject.
  • Billiards is an expensive game.
  • Measles is a dangerous disease.

Rule 10

A singular or plural verb is used with such nouns as ‘pains’, ‘means’ according to the sense in which they are used.


  • Great pains have been taken.
  • All possible means have been tried.
  • The means you have adopted is sufficient.

Rule 11

Two nouns connected by ‘and not’, ‘as well as’, ‘with’, ‘together with’, ‘besides’, ‘in addition to’, ‘like’ are followed by a verb in the singular when the former of the two nouns is in the singular.


  1. The house with all its furniture and fittings is for sale.
  2. The gold as well as silver is loved by we Indians.
  3. Milk besides butter is supplied by the dairy.
  4. Angelina and not her mother was present.

Rule 12

A plural verb is preferred with those nouns which are plural in meaning, though singular in form, such as ‘number’, ‘plenty’, variety’, ‘rest’, ‘enemy’, ‘pair’, ‘dozen’.


  1. Plenty of men are cowards.
  2. The enemy within are very dangerous.
  3. A variety of dances were performed.
  4. Two dozen bananas are bought.

Note: The correctness of placing plural verb after such nouns as ‘number’, ‘plenty’ and ‘variety’ depends entirely on the context. Unless these are used in a distributive sense, the verb must be singular.


  • Plenty of milk is supplied to the orphanage.
  • There is a number of complaints against her.

Rule 13

When two nouns or pronouns are joined by ‘not only… but also’ the verb agrees with the second noun or pronoun.


  • Not only the officer but also the soldiers are enjoying.
  • Not only the soldiers but also the officer was enjoying.

Rule 14

Two or more singular nouns or pronouns connected by ‘either… or’, ‘neither …nor’ require a singular verb.


  • Either Stephan or Rocky has broken the vase.
  • Neither she nor I was in London.
  • Either I or you are in the wrong.
  • Neither praise nor blame affects him.

Rule 15

‘Either’ and ‘neither’ must be followed by singular verbs.


  • Tell me if either of the applicants is suitable.

Rule 16

When nouns joined by ‘or’, ‘nor’ are of different numbers, the verb must be plural and must follow the plural noun.


  • Stephan or his friends have done this.
  • Either the student or his parents have been careless.
  • Neither the Principal nor the teachers were present.

Rule 17

Any noun qualified by ‘each’ and ‘every’ must be followed by a singular verb.


  • Every one of the students carries a badge.
  • Each one of these mangoes is rotten.
  • Every man and woman has the right to vote.
  • Each boy and each girl was given a card.

Rule 18

A verb should agree with the subject and not with the complement.


  • Our only guide in the dark night was the stars.
  • The stars were our only guide.

Rule 19

When the subject of the verb is a relative pronoun the verb agrees in number and person with the antecedent of the relative pronoun.


  • You, who are my friend, should stand by me in crisis.
  • I, who am your friend, will always help you.
  • He, who was my best friend, let me down.

Rule 20

The following words take verbs in the plural: both, few, a few, many, severa


  • Both the brothers are absent.
  • Few of the students know English.
  • Many of us have been called for the interview.
  • Several of the rioters have been arrested.

Try aiPDF, our new AI assistant for students and researchers