This is an area or even intermediate and advanced English students struggle with. As you go through this lesson you will see that there are many more rules when it comes to subject verb agreement and just the simple one of making sure that you add an “s” when using third person singular.
Two or more nouns linked with “and”
When the subject includes more than one noun or pronoun linked by “and”, a plural verb is needed.
- David and Katie eat dinner.
- The milk and juice are inside the fridge.
Two or more nouns linked with “or” or “nor”
When the subject includes more than one singular noun or pronoun, linked by either “or” or “nor”, a singular verb is needed.
- Neither Ed nor Susan is happy.
- Lunch or dinner is free today.
Compound subject containing a singular and plural
When the subject includes a singular and plural noun or pronoun, linked with “or” or “nor”, the nearest noun or pronoun determines whether the verb is plural or singular.
- Either Grandma or my parents cook dinner.
- My sisters or my brother picks me up from school.
Specific singular words
A singular verb is needed with singular words including: nobody, someone, somebody, anyone, anybody, everybody, each one, each, either, and neither.
- Everybody is excited for the vacation.
- Nobody wants to take out the trash.
- Each restaurant has a specialty.
Phrases between subject and verb
Verbs always must match the subject even if there is a phrase in between.
- The rose bushes, as well as the cherry tree, are blooming.
- The homework assignments, along with the essay, are due tomorrow.
- Passengers with an infant board the plane first.
- The family with two children plays in their yard.
Nouns with two parts
Certain objects with two parts are considered plural nouns. Nouns with two parts include: glasses, sunglasses, pants, slacks, briefs, jeans, shorts, tweezers, and scissors. Plural verbs are needed for these plural nouns.
- My glasses are new.
- His slacks are in the suitcase.
- The scissors are in the drawer.
Sometimes, singular nouns are used to describe a group of people and these are called collective nouns. Though there is more than one person, the group itself is viewed as a whole and is considered a singular noun. Some examples include: committee, school, group, team, herd, family, jury, class, council, union, government, club, the Republican Party, and the Department of Agriculture.
- The club is practicing after school.
- The family drives across the country every summer for vacation.
- The team is winning the game.
However, sometimes plural verbs may be used if the individuals act separately from the group. These examples may at first seem unnatural, though they are still grammatical. Phrases such as “members of” can be added prior to the subject to test the subject verb agreement.
- The family are flying from all over the world for the reunion.
- The class start their independent projects.
- The committee are returning to their homes for the holidays.
There is/there are
If the subject is singular, use “there is”. If the subject is plural, use “there are”.
[There is] + [singular subject]
[There are] + [plural subject]
- There is a cat outside.
- There are books on the desk.
See the chart below. Note that uncountable nouns are considered singular.
|+||There is||dessert||on the table.|
|There is||currently a||flood||in our city.|
|There is||no||milk||in the fridge.|
|–||There is not||any||dairy||in this cake.|
|?||Is there||an||extra copy?|
|+||There are||five||chairs||in the room.|
|There are||countless||places||to visit.|
|There are||several||methods||to solve the problem.|
|–||There are not||any||substitutions||available.|
Singular subject series
For a list including singular objects, use “there is”. See the examples below:
|There is||yellow, orange, and blue||in the painting.|
|There is||sleet, hail, and snow||in our city year round.|
|There is||pie, cake, and pudding||to select as dessert.|
While it may seem strange to use a singular verb for a list of three items, words are omitted to avoid repetition. In other words, the first example means “There is yellow, there is orange, and there is blue in the painting.”
Singular and plural subject series
As mentioned earlier, the closest subject determines whether the verb is singular or plural. This also applies to instances with both singular and plural subjects.
- There is a pig and cows on the farm.
- There are two loaves of bread and an apple on the counter.
- There is some paint and brushes in the cabinet.
- There are seven students and a teacher outside the school.
There is/are + a lot of/lots of
When using “a lot” or “lots of” choosing “is” or “are” is dependant on the noun. With a singular noun, use “there is”. With a plural noun, use “there are”.
|There are||a lot of / lots of||students||in the classroom.|
|There is||a lot of / lots of||cheese||in the fridge.|