Subject-Verb Agreement‏‎ in English Grammar

Subject-Verb Agreement means that a singular subject takes a singular verb‏‎ and a plural subject takes a plural verb.

For example:

My brother is in town.
My brothers are in town.

In the first example the subject is singular: my brother. This makes the verb singular: is.

In the second example the subject is plural: my brothers. This makes the verb plural: are.


The first step is to identify whether the subject is singular or plural (this is known as Grammatical Number).

Usually this is not a problem:

My doctor…
The books…

It’s fairly easy to see that the first is singular (one doctor) and the second is plural (several books).

However, sometimes it can be confusing. For example:

The team…

Deciding if the team is singular or plural is not so easy and depends on how we perceive the team; If we see the team as a cohesive unit working together then we can say:

The team is playing well today.

However, if we see them, for example, as playing as individuals with no real cohesive structure we might say:

The team are playing badly today.

But it’s not only English native speakers who may find this a bit confusing. Speakers of other languages learning English also have difficulties with verb – subject agreement. Italians, for example, whose MT‎ does not include non countable nouns often make mistakes like these:

* The spaghetti are ready!
* Where are my money?
* I don’t like her hair. They are too long.

* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence shows it is grammatically wrong


Once we know if the subject is singular or plural, we need to choose a singular or plural verb form. This is known as Grammatical Person‏‎.

My doctor is

The books are

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Posted in Sentence Structure.

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