Subject-Verb Agreement

**Note: This section will only make sense if you are able to identify a subject and a verb. If you are unable to do so, click on instructions for subjects and verbs.

What is subject-verb agreement?
Subject-verb agreement refers to ensuring that singular subjects have singular verbs, and plural subjects have plural verbs. This is called agreement in number, and it refers specifically to verbs in the present tense.
When I write a sentence, how can I make sure the subject agrees with the verb?

Identify your subject, and then ask yourself, "Is my subject singular or plural?" Then identify your verb and ask yourself, "Is my verb singular or plural?" If they are both the same, you have subject- verb agreement. If they aren't, you have subject-verb disagreement and must change either your subject or your verb so that both are singular or both are plural.

Since the verb is usually right next to the subject, why would anyone make a subject-verb agreement error?

When the verb immediately follows the subject (such as in the sentence, "He climbs the tree."), it is easy to have subject-verb agreement. However, sometimes there is a clause or a phrase between the subject and the verb, and then it is easy to make a subject-verb agreement error. In fact, sometimes even when the subject agrees with the verb, it sounds incorrect because of the position of other words in the sentence.

HOT GRAMMAR TIP

Generally speaking, regular verbs that are singular take an "s" at the end while plural verbs do not. Examples: She jumps rope. He studies hard. It stays the same. You may want to keep this in mind while proofreading your sentences in your own essays to see if you have subject-verb agreement errors.

Example #1 (Subject-Verb disagreement)

The dirty dishes sitting in the kitchen sink needs to be washed.

Example #1 (Corrected)

The dirty dishes sitting in the kitchen sink need to be washed.

Reasoning: The original sentence (Example #1) contains a plural subject (dishes) and a singular verb (needs). Again, the singular noun (sink) immediately preceding the singular verb (needs) might lead the writer to mistakenly believe that the subject is "sink," and, thus, incorrectly select a singular verb.

Exercise 1 | Exercise 2