7 Classes of Noun/Verb Agreement

7 Classes of Noun/Verb Agreement
by Mark Nichol

Below you’ll find seven classes of noun/verb agreement you need to understand.
1. Indefinite Pronouns
Most indefinite pronouns correspond to singular verbs:
“Someone has left her plate on the table.”
“Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion.”
“Each boy is responsible for his actions.”
To confirm, test for the proper verb form by writing a simple sentence in which is follows the pertinent pronoun: “Someone is missing” (not “Someone are missing”).
The proper verb form for some indefinite pronouns depends on the reference:
“All of the soup is gone. (Soup is a single entity.)
“Some of the comments are favorable. (The comments are counted as separate entities.)
The indefinite pronoun none can be singular or plural depending on the context:
“None of the jewels are missing.” (None of the components of the whole entity in question are missing.)
“None of the jewelry is missing.” (Not one part of the whole entity is missing.)
2. Conjunctive Phrases
The simple conjunction and cannot necessarily be replaced by such phrases as “along with,” “as well as,” and “together with”:
“The doe along with its fawns is resting in the meadow.” (This sentence is correct, however, if “along with its fawns” is inserted into the sentence “The doe is resting in the meadow,” which requires bracketing commas. The same is true of the other phrases.)
3. “Either/Or” and “Neither/Nor”
Neither and either refer to two compared or associated objects as individual entities and are therefore usually employed with singular verbs:
“Neither she nor I are ready for that.”
“Either option will work for me.”
Informally, however, an exception is made in such constructions as “Are either of you ready?”
In “either/or” and “neither/nor” constructions with a mixture of singular and plural nouns, the verb form is determined by whether the closest noun is singular or plural:
“Either the captain or one of the lieutenants are leading the patrol.”
“Neither the students nor the teacher remembers hearing anything.”
However, because the plural noun and the singular verb still clash in the second sentence despite their lack of proximity, it is advisable to construct the sentence so that the singular pronoun precedes the plural one:
“Neither the teacher nor the students remember hearing anything.”
4. Positive and Negative Subjects in Combination
A subject consisting of positive and negative sentiments that differ in singular and plural form should be followed by a verb that corresponds with the positive element:
“The delivery of the speech, not its contents, is the issue.”
As with “either/or” and “neither/nor” constructions, perhaps it is best to rearrange the sentence so that the singular noun is in proximity with the verb:
“It is not the contents of the speech, but its delivery, that is at issue.”
5. Expletives
In sentences beginning with such expletives as here and there, the actual subject, which follows the verb, determines the verb form:
“There is a word for that.”
“Here are several choices.”
6. Plural Nouns for Single Objects
Plural nouns that name single objects, such as scissors and pants, are matched with plural verbs unless the phrase “pair of” precedes the noun; in that case, pair is the subject:
“Scissors are dangerous.”
“A pair of scissors is required for this activity.”
Some other nouns ending in s are also singular in meaning:
“The mumps is a disease you don’t hear much about anymore.”
Meanwhile, others stand for a single thing but call for a plural verb:
“Thanks are in order.”
7. Fractional Phrases
Phrases referring to a mathematical portion may, depending on the context, be singular or plural:
“A small percentage of the employees are opposed.”
“A large percentage of the cargo was damaged.”
“Three-fourths of the land is forested.”
“One-third of the trees are oaks.”
Numbers expressed as part of a mathematical operation are linked with a plural verb, but the outcome of a computation is expressed as a single entity:
“Ten and six are added together to equal sixteen.”
“Ten minus six is four.”


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