Food Biz Doctor

Singular and Plural Nouns Subject Verb Agreement

As a copy editor, one of the most common mistakes I see in writing is with subject-verb agreement in sentences with singular and plural nouns. This can pose a problem for both writers and readers, as it can make the text difficult to understand and can even affect the credibility of the writer.

The basic rule for subject-verb agreement is that a singular subject takes a singular verb, while a plural subject takes a plural verb. For example, “The dog barks” is correct because “dog” is a singular subject and “barks” is a singular verb. On the other hand, “The dogs bark” is correct because “dogs” is a plural subject and “bark” is a plural verb.

However, things can get tricky when dealing with compound subjects, indefinite pronouns, collective nouns, and other unique cases.

Compound subjects are two or more subjects joined by “and”. When the subjects are joined by “and”, usually a plural verb is used. For example, “The cat and the dog chase each other” uses “chase” because both “cat” and “dog” are plural.

Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that do not refer to a specific person, place, or thing. Examples include “everyone”, “nobody”, and “somebody”. When using an indefinite pronoun as the subject of a sentence, it can be tricky to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the pronoun is singular, a singular verb should be used. For example, “Everyone is excited” uses “is” because “everyone” is singular.

Collective nouns refer to a group of people or things, but are considered singular in form. Examples include “team”, “family”, and “staff”. When using a collective noun as the subject of a sentence, it is important to identify whether the group is acting as a single unit or as individuals. If acting as a single unit, a singular verb is used. For example, “The team is ready” uses “is” because the team is acting as a single unit. If the group is acting as individuals, a plural verb is used. For example, “The staff are each responsible for their own tasks” uses “are” because the staff are acting as individuals.

In addition to these unique cases, there are also irregular verbs that do not follow the standard subject-verb agreement rules. For example, “The children run” uses “run” instead of “runs” because “children” is a plural subject and “run” is an irregular plural verb.

In conclusion, subject-verb agreement is an important aspect of writing that can greatly impact the clarity and credibility of the text. Understanding the basic rule of using a singular verb with a singular subject and a plural verb with a plural subject is essential, but knowing how to handle unique cases and irregular verbs is also important for effective writing.