Subjects and verbs must have agreement in number. When dealing with pronouns, you will use specific pronouns depending on whether you are dealing with first, second, or third person subjects. Singular Plural First Person I We Second Person You You Third Person He, She, It They All nouns can be used in the third person.
Collective nouns that refer to groups of people (audience, class, family, etc) are also considered singular because they describe a group of people acting as one.
Compound Nouns/Subjects Most compound nouns are joined by and and can be considered plural. To determine compound nouns or subjects that are joined by a coordinating conjunction, consider the noun closest to the verb. If the closest noun or subject is plural, the subject is plural. However, if the closest noun or subject to the verb is singular than the subject is singular. Example 1-Air bags and antilock brakes are standard on all new models. (plural subject=plural verb “are”) Example 2-Rhythm and blues is a forerunner of rock and roll. (singular subject=singular verb “is”) Compound subjects joined by “or” may be singular or plural verbs. If both subjects are singular, use a singular verb. If both subjects are plural, use a plural verb. Example 1-Either radiation or chemotherapy is combined with surgery for the most effective results. (Singular) Example 2-Either radiation treatments or chemotherapy sessions are combined with surgery for the most effective results. (plural) See the examples on the bottom of page 458 in The DK Handbook for more information and examples.
Modifying Phrase When a modifying phrase comes between the subject and verb, the verb will always agree with the subject. Imagine the modifying phrase is invisible. Example-The sound of the drumbeats builds in intensity in Eugene O'Neill's play The Emperor Jones (“of the drumbeats” is a prepositional phrase. Sound is the subject, builds is the verb).
Here are some tips for revising subject verb agreement: Person 1. Find the subject of the sentence. 2. Determine if the subject is in the first, second, or third person. 3. Determine the same for the sentence's verb. 4. If the subject and verb have the same person, your sentence is grammatically correct. Number 1. Find the sentence's subject. 2. Is the subject's number singular or plural? 3. Find the sentence's verb: is the number singular or plural? 4. If the subject and verb of the sentence are the same number, your sentence is grammatically correct.
Remember back to our previous discussions of paragraph and sentence unity in your writing.