Conjunctions A conjunction connects words, phrases or clauses And connecting two or more items in a subject usually makes the verb plural: Josh and John oppose the bill The exception is when words connected by and are part of a single thing: Pork and beans is not exactly my favorite dish. Or used along to connect two or more items in a subject makes the verb singular unless one of the items is plural. Then, the verb agrees with the nearest noun or pronoun: Mary or Phil is answering calls today. Mary or they are answering calls today.
Conjunctions The number of the subject is not affected by phrases beginning with parenthetical words, phrases or causes that are set off by commas –such as those starting with along with, as well as, in addition to, including, such as or together with: Brian, as well as they, is voting in favor of annexation. When the correlative conjunctions not only…but also are used, there should not be a comma before the but also unless the not only…but also connect a dependent and an independent clause. Not only Mark but also his sister have won scholarships. Not only has Mark won a scholarship, but also so has his sister.
Collective and uncountable nouns Collective nouns are singular in form but plural in meaning. Including: army, assembly, audience, board, breed, cast, choir, club, commission, community, company, corporation, jury, mob, orchestra, panel, press, public, union and United States. Use a singular verb when the collective noun is being used in the sense of a single group operating together in agreement. Use a plural verb if the noun is used to name a group operating as individuals or in disagreement: The jury was seated. The jury were split.
Collective nouns Unlike other collective nouns, the word couple is usually plural rather than singular. A married couple pays more under U.S. tax law than two people living together but filing separately.
Uncountable nouns Nouns that have no plural, although many of them look plural already. They are not so consistent as collective nouns in that some take a singular verb, some a plural. These uncountables take a singular verb: Advice, apparatus, athletics, civics, courage, economics, fun, health, information, jazz, kudos, linguistics, mathematics, news, remainder, shambles, summons and whereabouts. These uncountables take a plural verb: Assets, barracks, earnings, goods, odds, pants, pliers, proceeds, remains, riches, scissors, shears, tactics, thanks and wages. These uncountables may take a singular or plural verb depending on the context: Ethics, gross, headquarters, mechanics, politics, savings, series, species and statistics. Politics is her favorite subject. Her politics are socialistic.
Other confusing nouns Don’t mistake plural nouns ending in a with their singular forms ending in on or um: criteria, data and media are plural, not singular. Units of measurement, such as distances, money, time and weight, sometimes take a singular verb even though they are plural in form. This happens when the amount can be seen as a single amount: Five dollars is not too much to borrow. In American usage, majority, number and total are singular if preceded by the, plural if preceded by a: The number of people expected is small. A total of 50 people are expected to attend.
Other confusing nouns Fractions and percentages are singular or plural, depending on the noun or pronoun following them: One-third of the book is a flashback One third of the customers are regulars. Fifty percent of the budget is for debt retirement. Fifty percent of the cases are cured.
Indefinite pronouns Both, few, many, others and several are plural: Many were tragically lost in the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center. Another, anybody, anyone, anything, each one, either, everybody, everyone, everything, little, many a, more than one, much, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, other, somebody, someone and something are singular. More than one has deplored the situation. All, any, each, more, most, none, plenty, some and such can be either singular or plural depending on the context: All are here. All is lost. Some are coming. Some is left.
Indefinite pronouns Make none singular if it means “no one” or “not one” which is means most of the time, plural if the sense is “no two” or “no amount”: None of the people invited has arrived. (not one) None of the experts agree. (no two) None can be plural but make it singular in most instances. None are so blind as those who will not see. None is so blind as he who will not see. Both are correct.
Each, either and neither Each is singular if it comes before the verb, plural if it comes after: Each is going by car. They are each going by car. (Don’t write: they each are going by car.) Either and neither used by themselves are singular pronouns: Neither of them has been found. (Not: neither of them have been found.) Either of the two offers law-enforcement experience. In the constructions either…or and neither…nor, the words are used as conjunctions, not pronouns. So the verb following them is singular or plural depending on if the noun or pronoun following the or or nor is singular or plural: Neither his parents nor John is sure what happened next. Neither John nor his parents are sure what happened next.
Intervening nouns and pronouns If a noun or pronoun comes between the subject and the verb, the verb still agrees with the subject, not with the intervening noun or pronoun: Wednesday’s newspaper, along with its supplements, is our biggest edition ever. No one but them knows the location. Prepositional phrases: if a subject contains a prepositional phrase, remember that the noun or pronoun following the preposition is almost never the actual subject, so the verb instead agrees with the noun or pronoun BEFORE the preposition: Three trees in the garden were blown over. But after a phrase beginning with one of the, one of these or one of those and ending with who, which or that, the real subject of the dependent clause is the noun or pronoun following of: She is one of those people who are always on time. One of those solutions that are cheap looks good.
Intervening nouns and pronouns If the one in such a construction is preceded by only, one is usually the antecedent, and the construction becomes singular again: She is the only one of those people who is always on time. (She’s the only one who is on time.) But there is an exception to this rule: Only one of those solutions that are cheap looks good. (Here, solutions remains the antecedent: this is still one solution of several that are cheap. But it is the only one of those that looks good.)
Subject and predicatenominative in disagreement When the subject is plural and the predicate nominative is singular, or vice versa, the number of the verb should always agree with the number of the subject: The committee is John, Josh, Jake and Bill. John, Josh, Jake and Bill are the committee. Inverted order: although the subject precedes the verb in most sentences, the subject in some sentences follows the verb. This occurs most often in questions. In a sentence beginning with here or there, the verb agrees with the number of the subject, which follows the verb: Here are the answers to Friday’s crossword. (Not: here is the answers) There are no two ways about it. (Not: There is no two ways about it.)
Subject and predicatenominative in disagreement Don’t write stilted sentences with inverted sentence order. Wrong: From the mouths of fools sometimes come wisdom. Stilted: from the mouths of fools sometimes comes wisdom. Right: Wisdom sometimes comes from the mouths of fools.
Review He said he (is, was) smarter than that now. Professor Sheppard said the moon (is, was) a satellite. “I think he’s (prejudice, prejudiced,)” she said. These parts aren’t fitting together as they’re (suppose, supposed,) to do. I wouldnt’t if I (was, were) you. She moved that the resolution (be, is) approved. He demanded that the committee (decide, decides) now.
Review If he (sing, sings), will you attend? If she (was, were) coming, she’d be here by now. He plays piano as though he (was, were) a professional. “When someone sneezes, we say “God (bless, blesses) you.” If she (be, is) guilty, she should go to prison. I wish I (was, were) through with this assignment. If I hurt your feelings, I (am, be) sorry. He said he could do better if he (had, has, have) better tools.
Homework List four principal parts of the verbs and complete the worksheet. Remember: principal parts are the most common verb forms, the present, past, past-participle and present- participle.