Verbs: subject verb agreement

Questions
Overview

In English, the subject and the verb always agree. If the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular; the same rule goes for the plural.

  • My sister loves going to the beach. (singular)
  • My sisters love going to the beach. (plural)

X and Y

If the sentence has nouns linked by 'and', the verb will be plural, because it will refer to both.

  • Andrew and Amanda are coming tonight.

X or Y

If the sentence has nouns linked by 'or', the verb will be singular, because it will refer to only one of them.

  • Either Alice or her sister has the keys.

Exceptions:

  • In British English, for example, words that refer to groups (team, family, etc.) are usually considered plural. In American English, they are usually considered singular.
    • The police are looking for the criminals. (British English)
    • The police is looking for the criminals. (American English)
Further learning
Description Author Language
Some helpful tips on how to avoid common subject verb errors. Smrt English
Specific examples with advanced subject verb agreement. Espresso English
Some collective nouns can be plural or singular. BBC Learning