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Subjects and Verbs: Part III

In the last issue of Grammar Tips & Tidbits, we covered the first seven rules for subject-verb agreement. If you missed last week's issue, you can view it here. Are you ready for the final seven rules? Hold on to your seat!

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!

Last but not least, Jane will soon be adding 68 one-minute English usage videos to her website, so be sure to bookmark her site and visit it again in the near future.

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

Rule 8.                The pronouns each, everyone, every one, everybody, anyoneanybody, someone, and somebody are singular and require singular verbs. Do not be misled by what follows of.


Each of the girls sings well.

Every one of the cakes is gone.

NOTE: Everyone is one word when it means everybodyEvery one is two words when the meaning is each one.
Rule 9. With words that indicate portions—percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, and so forth—look at the noun in your  of phrase (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.
  Examples: Fifty percent of the pie has disappeared.
is the object of the preposition of.

Fifty percent of the pies have disappeared.
is the object of the preposition.

One-third of the city is unemployed.

One-third of the people are unemployed.

NOTE: Hyphenate all spelled-out fractions.

All of the pie is gone.

All of the pies are gone.

Some of the pie is missing.

Some of the pies are missing.

None of the garbage was picked up.

None of the sentences were punctuated correctly.

Of all her books, none have sold as well as the first one.

  NOTE: Apparently, the SAT testing service considers none as a singular word only. However, according to Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, "Clearly none has been both singular and plural since Old English and still is. The notion that it is singular only is a myth of unknown origin that appears to have arisen in the 19th century. If in context it seems like a singular to you, use a singular verb; if it seems like a plural, use a plural verb. Both are acceptable beyond serious criticism" (p. 664). When none is clearly intended to mean not one or not any, it is followed by a singular verb.
Rule 10. When either and neither are subjects, they always take singular verbs.
  Examples: Neither of them is available to speak right now.

Either of us is capable of doing the job.

Rule 11. The words here and there have generally been labeled as adverbs even though they indicate place. In sentences beginning with here or there, the subject follows the verb.
  Examples: There are four hurdles to jump.

There is a high hurdle to jump.

Rule 12. Use a singular verb with sums of money or periods of time.
  Examples: Ten dollars is a high price to pay.

Five years is the maximum sentence for that offense.

Rule 13. Sometimes the pronoun who, that, or which is the subject of a verb in the middle of the sentence. The pronouns who, that, and which become singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them. So, if that noun is singular, use a singular verb. If it is plural, use a plural verb.
  Examples: Salma is the scientist who writes/write the reports.
The word in front of who is scientist, which is singular. Therefore, use the singular verb writes.

He is one of the men who does/do the work.
The word in front of who is men, which is plural. Therefore, use the plural verb do.
Rule 14. Collective nouns such as team and staff may be either singular or plural depending on their use in the sentence.
  Examples: The staff is in a meeting.
Staff is acting as a unit here.

The staff are in disagreement about the findings.
The staff are acting as separate individuals in this example.

The sentence would read even better as:
The staff members are in disagreement about the findings.

Are you ready for the quiz?  Click here to take an interactive quiz at The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation website.


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