Subject Verb Agreement by Shmoop

Subject Verb Agreement by Shmoop


Subject Verb Agreement, a la Shmoop.
We get into disagreements with other people over all sorts of silly things, like whether
a room is too hot or too cold… …or whether a particular restaurant has
great food or terrible food… …or whether or not the third “Godfather”
movie is worth even watching. Subjects and verbs, on the other hand, find
it easy to agree. All it takes is for a singular noun to match
up with a singular verb… …and a plural noun to match up with a plural
verb. For example, say we have the sentence, “I am a really good cook.” The word “I” is a singular noun… …so it needs the singular verb “am”. Now, say we change our example up to read,
“We are really good cooks.” The word “we” is a plural noun… …so it needs the plural verb “are”.
Wow, so easy, right? This has to be the shortest grammar lesson ever. But wait! Some nouns can be tricky, leaving
us unsure as to whether they’re singular or plural nouns. For example, take the word “everyone”. If
we’re talking about “everyone” at a professional football game, then we could be referring
to tens of thousands of people. In the end, though, the number of people we’re
referring to doesn’t matter. The grammar rule is, “everyone” and its compatriots “everybody”,
“anyone”, “anybody”, “no one”, and “nobody”… …are singular nouns that require singular
verbs. Take the sentence, “Everyone at the game in
Green Bay is freezing.” Because “everyone” is a singular noun, we
match it up with the singular verb “is”. Or, say we have the sentence, “No one at the
game in Houston is freezing.” Because “no one” is a singular noun, we match
it up with the singular verb “is.” Band names and team names are usually plural,
although some people prefer to treat group names that sound plural as plural… …and group names that sound singular as
singular. So, if we ever overhear a customer at a restaurant
say, “Matchbox 20 makes great music”… …where the band name “Matchbox 20” is treated
as singular rather than plural… …try not to wig out. Plenty of people talk
this way, and the world hasn’t come to an end.
Now, we come to collective nouns. While a word like “family” may cover a lot of people… …collective nouns are usually treated as
singular nouns. For example, say we have the sentence, “The
school orchestra plays its spring concert tonight.” It doesn’t matter that the orchestra may consist
of a hundred very nervous teenagers. Because “orchestra” is a collective noun… …it is treated as a singular noun, and is
therefore matched up with the singular verb “plays.” What if we have the sentence, “The football
team runs sprints during practice.”…? We don’t care how hot and tired all those
football players are. Because “team” is a collective noun… …it is treated as a singular noun, and so
we match it up with the singular verb “runs”. Upon occasion, some collective nouns can be
plural if the people covered by the noun have a sense of individuality. Like: “The married couple are spending some
quality time apart.” Because it’s clear that the couple we’re talking
about consists of two people… …who aren’t currently speaking to each other… …we match the collective noun “couple” with
the plural verb “are”. We could just as easily use the word “couple”
as a singular noun. Say we have the sentence, “Each couple is
attending therapy with a different counselor.” In this case, couples are being spoken of
as units, which is why we match the collective… …and singular… …noun “couple” with the singular verb “is”. The grammar rule for collective nouns may
seem overly complicated, but don’t worry: given how vague the rule is, it’s hard to
be truly wrong here. And that’s it for subject verb agreement. Just remember that singular nouns go with
singular verbs… …plural nouns go with plural verbs… …and singular words that cover a lot of
people, like “everyone” and “symphony”, get singular verbs. Isn’t it nice when there’s a grammar rule
that is virtually impossible to disagree on?

26 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *