As you edit for grammar, you’ll be more successful if you try not to look for everything simultaneously. In the next two sections, you’ll focus on subject-verb agreement. A big part of grammar is matching up the subject with the verb. Subjects and verbs must agree in number. Singular subjects need singular verbs; plural subjects require plural verbs. In the present tense, singular verbs end in the suffix -s or -es; plural verbs do not.
A giraffe stands proudly.
Three giraffes stand proudly.
When the subject and verb follow closely, your “grammar phone” might suffice for editing, but when you write more complex sentence structures, agreement between the subject and verb requires closer attention. For example, when two singular nouns are joined by “and,“ the subject is plural and requires a plural verb.
The adolescent giraffe and his mother stand proudly.
However, when two singular nouns are joined by “or,” the subject is singular and requires a singular verb.
Either the adolescent giraffe or his mother stands still.
Subject-verb agreement gets a little trickier when indefinite pronouns are the subjects. When you use the pronouns he or she, you’re referring to a specific person. It also refers to a specific thing. When you use an indefinite pronoun, though, you’re referring to a nonspecific person, place, or thing, i.e., “Somebody should do something.”
Review the following information about indefinite pronouns:
|Singular||Plural||Singular or Plural|
That both and several are plural makes sense, but it’s more difficult to grasp that everyone, everybody, and everything are singular until you test one with your “grammar phone.”
Which would you say?
Everybody are going to the zoo.
Everybody is going to the zoo.
What about the group of indefinite pronouns that includes all, any, more, most, none, and some, which can be singular and plural? How do you decide what verb to use? You make your decision based on the antecedent. If the antecedent is plural, the verb will be plural. If the antecedent is singular, the verb will be singular.
Let’s look at some examples.
None of the tourists want to visit the giraffes.
None of the meal was left uneaten by the baby giraffe.
Continue practicing with these items. Refer back to the “Indefinite Pronoun” chart as needed. For each sentence below, choose the correct verb. Click in the appropriate box to record your answer.