Exploring English HomeVerb Agreement

This section of Exploring English describes English verb agreement.

Agreement is the determination of the inflectional form of one word according to a grammatical feature, such as number or gender, of another word.

For example, the highlighted verbs agree with the number of the subject in the following sentences:

Bill and Hillary are coming for dinner.

We sing. He sings.

A collective noun used as subject is treated as singular when referring to the group as a unit:

The jury determines the verdict.

The crowd is out of kleenex.

A collective noun is treated as plural when referring to individual members of the group:

A number of people were very outspoken on the issue.

Words ending in '-ics' that refer to a body of knowledge, a science, or an art are usually considered singular.

Words ending in -ics that refer to qualities or physical qualities are usually considered plural:

Singular Plural
Aeronautics acrobatics
civics tactics
physics athletics

Words such as 'politics', 'acoustics', and 'ethics' can be either singular or plural, according to the sense intended.

Be careful not to have a verb agree with an expression that is not the subject of the verb. The subjects and the verbs are highlighted the following sentences:

A personal computer such as a Windows Compatible or an Apple MacIntosh provides a great tool for writers.

The computer is one of the new developments that can often (but not always) make life easier.

See Verb Conjugation

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Last Modified April 08, 2003