What Is the Subject-Verb Agreement

As a copy editor, it is important to understand the rules of subject-verb agreement. Subject-verb agreement is the relationship between the subject of a sentence and the verb that follows it. The subject is the person, place, thing, or idea that the sentence is about, while the verb is the action or state of being that the subject is doing or experiencing.

The basic rule of subject-verb agreement is that a singular subject requires a singular verb, while a plural subject requires a plural verb. For example, “The dog barks” is correct because the single subject “dog” is followed by the singular verb “barks.” In contrast, “The dogs bark” is also correct because the plural subject “dogs” is followed by the plural verb “bark.”

However, subject-verb agreement can become more complicated when dealing with compound subjects, indefinite pronouns, and other grammatical elements.

Compound subjects are two or more nouns or pronouns that are joined by a conjunction like “and” or “or.” In this case, the verb must agree with the number of the subject closest to the verb. For example, “The dog and the cat play” is correct because the singular subject “cat” is closest to the singular verb “play.”

Indefinite pronouns like “everyone,” “someone,” and “anyone” can also be tricky because they can be singular or plural depending on their meaning. When these pronouns are used as singular subjects, they require singular verbs. For example, “Everyone is here” is correct because “everyone” is a singular subject that requires the singular verb “is.” In contrast, “Everyone brought their own dish” is incorrect because the singular subject “everyone” is followed by the plural pronoun “their,” which creates disagreement.

There are also special cases where verbs can be used as nouns, like “swimming” or “walking.” In these cases, the verb functions as a singular noun and requires a singular verb. For example, “Swimming is my favorite activity” is correct because “swimming” is a singular noun that requires the singular verb “is.”

In summary, subject-verb agreement is an important grammatical rule that ensures clarity and accuracy in writing. As a copy editor, it is important to understand the basics of subject-verb agreement as well as the various exceptions and special cases that can arise. By following these rules, writers can ensure that their sentences are grammatically correct and easy to understand.