Subject / Verb Agreement
The family is having a picnic.

Subject / Verb Agreement

In any sentence or clause, the subject must agree with the verb, e.g. 'The boys play football on Saturdays, but John plays only on Friday'. The subject 'boys' is plural, so the verb is required to be in the plural form 'play'. The subject 'John' is singular, so the verb is required to be in the singular form 'plays'.

When you hear the English language, you will probably be able to detect a wrong subject/verb agreement, even if you don't know that's what it is. A word or words will sound wrong. Occasionally, in written language, it's harder to detect as our brains tend to read what should be correct. This is all very nice, and I am sure that you don't have any problems with this stuff. Unfortunately, there are situations that can cause some difficulties.

This 11-plus quiz is a bit tricky, so take your time and read the questions carefully, even saying them out loud if it helps.

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  1. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    Some nouns are ALWAYS plural: these require a plural verb form. In this case, 'are'. Nouns which are always plural include the following: scissors, clothes, shorts, glasses (for one's eyes), jeans, binoculars, slacks and pliers
  2. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    'News' ends in '-s', but it is NOT a plural: it is singular and requires a singular verb form. Here are some other words that are singular and require singular verb forms: weather, anger, advice, music, information and measles
  3. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    Ignore 'stuff' that is written between a subject and its verb: 'along with his executives'. This 'stuff' is normally set off by commas. In this case, the subject ('director') is in the singular, so it requires a singular verb form: 'is'
  4. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    'Each' always requires a singular verb. 'None' can be used with a verb in the singular/plural form
  5. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    In British English, most collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural; however, 'people' and 'police' require a plural verb form
  6. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    The pronouns 'neither' and 'either' are singular and require singular verb forms
  7. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    When used as a subject, 'everyone' takes a singular verb
  8. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    If the subject is followed by 'one of the' or 'one of those', the verb form agrees with the object of the preposition. In this case, 'workers' is plural, so the verb has to be in the plural form: 'were'. The verb does NOT agree with the subject 'he'. If the subject is followed by 'the only one of', the verb has to be in the singular form. Finally, when used as representing a group or unit, the expression 'the number' takes a verb in the singular
  9. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    With 'either ... or ...' or 'neither ... nor ...' the subject closer to the verb determines the number of the verb. In this case, 'brothers' is closer than 'father', so you need 'are' NOT 'is'
  10. In which of the following sentences is the subject-verb agreement wrong?
    'There' and 'here' are never subjects. In this case, 'two ways' is the subject, so the verb has to be in the plural form: 'are'. By the way, these are called expletive constructions

Author: Frank Evans

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