The author S.A. Joo's Writing & Editing Advice & Tips

A professional Editor and YA Writer, represented by Black Hawk Literary Agency.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Subject-Verb Agreement: The Most Common Mistake Writers Make

Simplified Subject-Verb Agreement

This is the most common grammar error made by every writer besides punctuation errors. Here are the simplified rules of subject-verb agreement. There are many rules and exceptions; however, I’ll just note the top three because to list them all would take multiple pages. Turning this into an English lecture is not what I want.

Here. A singular subject (Mom, he, store, Sandy) takes a singular verb (is, goes, opens, has). A plural subject (parents, they, stores, Sandy and Tom) takes a plural verb (are, go, open, have). Simple, right? Well, here are the three key points to remember.

Point 1: A phrase beginning of a word “of” creates one of the most commonly made subject-verb mistakes.

Example: One of the parents is angry.

Explanation: The subject is one, which is singular, so the verb is singular is.

Point 2: The verb in an or, either/or, or neither/nor sentence agrees with the noun or pronoun closest to it.

Examples: Neither Mom nor Dad is available.
                  Either he or she is available to volunteer

Explanation: Both subjects are singular, so the verb is also singular.

Example: Neither the serving bowl nor the plates go on that shelf.

Explanation: The subject closest to the verb is plates (plural), so the verb is plural.

Point 3: Use a plural verb for two or more subjects when connected by “and.”

Example: A book “and” a pencil are all I need to study.

Exception: When “and” is a part of a compound nouns, use a singular verb. 

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