The subject must agree with the verb in number and person.
A simple subject is obviously either singular or plural.
|NUMBER||Singular||A dog chases a cat.|
|Plural||Dogs chase cats.|
Remember that the present-tense verb often changes with respect to person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd).
|PERSON||1st person||I chase my dog.|
|3rd person||My dog chases cats.|
A compound subject is usually plural.
|Plural||The dog and the cat are fighting over the fish.|
|Plural||Bubba and Earlene are married.|
Sometimes a subject that seems to be plural is actually singular.
|WRONG||The first of the terrorists in the video were dressed like a woman.|
|Right!||The first of the terrorists in the video was dressed like a woman.|
With compound subjects joined by or/nor, the verb agrees with the noun or pronoun that is closer to the verb.
|NUMBER||Wrong||Neither the children nor their mother were smoking cigars.|
|Right!||Neither the children nor their mother was smoking cigars.|
|NUMBER||Wrong||Either the students or their teacher are bringing cookies.|
|Right!||Either the students or their teacher is bringing cookies.|
Some indefinite pronouns (all, some, several, few, both, many) take a plural or singular verb, depending on when the pronoun refers to a countable or non-countable noun.
|Wrong||All the men on the team likes beer.|
|Right!||All the men on the team like beer.|
|Wrong||All beer in cans taste nasty.|
|Right!||All beer in cans tastes nasty.|
|Wrong||Some of the boys in the class was sleeping.|
|Right!||Some of the boys in the class were sleeping.|
|Wrong||Some of the rice were not cooked.|
|Right!||Some of the rice was not cooked.|
CAUTION: Test Alert!
Standardized tests, such as the ACT, will often throw a sentence at you with the subject separated from the verb with many other words and phrases. See the examples below to avoid being tricked.
|Wrong||Medical treatment with any of several antidepressants sometimes help people with depression.|
|Right!||Medical treatment with any of several antidepressants sometimes helps people with depression.|
|Wrong||Intense exercise in several popular video programs advertised on television commercials have become popular in our fitness-crazed society.|
|Right!||Intense exercise in several popular video programs advertised on television commercials has become popular in our fitness-crazed society.|