There are some tricky situations that make it hard to find the subject of a sentence. When that happens, it is hard to know the correct form of the verb. Now, we will look at some situations that cause writers to make mistakes with subject-verb agreement. We will also study the rules that will help with those tricky situations.
Situation 1: Subject-verb agreement with words that are considered singular.
There are some words that seem to refer to more than one person or thing. See the examples below:
Anyone, Everyone, No one
Each, Nobody, Everybody
Everything, Somebody, Anybody
Even though these words seem to refer to more than one person or thing, if they are the subject of a sentence, they are singular. See the examples below:
Everyone likes to feel appreciated.
Everything is fine.
Nobody wants to come.
Situation 2: Subject-verb agreement with plural subjects and prepositional phrases.
Sometimes, a writer uses a phrase with a preposition (such as in, out, over) and they place it between a tricky subject and a verb. When this happens, it is harder to make the subject and verb agree. Let’s consider this sentence:
Wrong: Everything about the curtains have to be changed.
In the example above, about the curtains, is the prepositional phrase. It is tempting to make the verb agree with the object of the phrase, which is the plural word, curtains.
However, the subject of the sentence is everything, so the verb must agree with everything. Remember, everything is considered singular when it is the subject of the sentence. See the corrected version of our example sentence:
Correct: Everything about the curtains has to be changed.
One way to ensure you are matching the verb with the right subject is to mentally “cross out” the prepositional phrase or other words between the subject and verb. In the following sentence, the writer made the mistake of making the verb agree with the object of the prepositional phrase:
Wrong: Each of the cupcakes need pink frosting.
Then the writer mentally “crossed out” the prepositional phrase between the subject and verb. They could see that each is the subject, and is singular. Thus, they could identify the right form of the verb. See the example below:
Correct: Each of the cupcakes needs pink frosting.
NOTE: If none, most, all, any, and some are used as the subject of the sentence, we follow a different rule. If a writer puts a preposition between one of those subjects and a verb, the word at the end of the prepositional phrase (the object) will help us know if the verb should be plural or singular.
In the examples below, you can see that the subject, all, can be singular or plural, depending on the situation:
Correct: All of the leaves have been cleaned up.
Also correct: All of the leaf has been eaten by the insect.
1. What is the subject in the following sentence?:
Everything under this roof is in order.
2. What is the correct verb to complete the sentence below? Calls, or call?
Someone from the recruiters ___ every day.
3. What is the correct verb to complete the sentence below? Says, or say?
Nobody at these parties ever ___ hi.
4. What is the correct verb to complete the sentence below? Are, or is?
Anything beyond the signs ___ not accessible.(
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