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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Subjects and Verbs: Part II

In the last issue of Grammar Tips & Tidbits, we discussed the guidelines for identifying subjects and verbs. If you missed last week's issue, you can view it here. This week we'll be discussing subject and verb agreement.

The following rules come from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation website, courtesy of Jane Straus.¹ You can view additional tips, read Jane's blog, or purchase her book at the following website: http://www.grammarbook.com. Jane's site also includes tons of free quizzes so you can test your knowledge. If you can't get enough grammar quizzes, you're in luck. Jane also offers a subscription area containing over 100 interactive quizzes!

NOTE: In the article below, subjects are shown in bold and verbs are underlined. (The original article uses a different convention.)

Subject and Verb Agreement
by Jane Straus

Basic Rule. The basic rule states that a singular subject takes a singular verb, while a plural subject takes a plural verb.

NOTE: The trick is in knowing whether the subject is singular or plural. The next trick is recognizing a singular or plural verb.

Hint: Verbs do not form their plurals by adding an s as nouns do. In order to determine which verb is singular and which one is plural, think of which verb you would use with he or she and which verb you would use with they.
  Example: talks, talk
Which one is the singular form? Which word would you use with he? We say, "He talks." Therefore, talks is singular. We say, "They talk." Therefore, talk is plural.
Rule 1.                Two singular subjects connected by or or nor require a singular verb.


My aunt or my uncle is arriving by train today.
Rule 2. Two singular subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor require a singular verb as in Rule 1.
  Examples: Neither Juan nor Carmen is available.

Either Kiana or Casey is helping today with stage decorations.

Rule 3. When I is one of the two subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor, put it second and follow it with the singular verb am.
  Example: Neither she nor I am going to the festival.
Rule 4. When a singular subject is connected by or or nor to a plural subject, put the plural subject last and use a plural verb.
  Example: The serving bowl or the plates go on that shelf.
Rule 5. When a singular and plural subject are connected by either/or or neither/nor, put the plural subject last and use a plural verb.
  Example: Neither Jenny nor the others are available.
Rule 6. As a general rule, use a plural verb with two or more subjects when they are connected by and.
  Example: A car and a bike are my means of transportation.
Rule 7. Sometimes the subject is separated from the verb by words such as along with, as well as, besides, or not. Ignore these expressions when determining whether to use a singular or plural verb.
  Example: The politician, along with the newsmen, is expected shortly.

Excitement, as well as nervousness, is the cause of her shaking.


Guess what? We're only halfway done!
Tune in next time for Part III in this series. (Hint: There will be a quiz at the end!)

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1.  Straus, Jane. "Subject and Verb Agreement."
     The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation
     Published with permission.