Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject – Verb Agreement Exercises

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Subject – Verb Agreement


Subject-Verb Agreement is a cornerstone of English grammar, pivotal for constructing clear and coherent sentences. This grammatical rule ensures that the verb in a sentence matches its subject in number; singular subjects pair with singular verbs, and plural subjects with plural verbs. Mastery of this concept is not only essential for everyday communication but also plays a critical role in academic success, especially for students preparing for the TOEFL exam. A deep understanding of Subject-Verb Agreement enhances writing and speaking skills, contributing significantly to achieving a high score on the exam. As we explore this topic, we will uncover the key rules, common pitfalls, and strategies to master Subject-Verb Agreement, equipping TOEFL candidates with the knowledge to excel in their test and beyond.

Understanding Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-Verb Agreement forms the backbone of English syntax, dictating that the verb must match its subject in number. This principle ensures clarity and precision in communication, preventing ambiguity in sentences. For TOEFL aspirants, mastering this rule is indispensable, as it directly impacts their ability to construct grammatically correct sentences—a vital skill evaluated in both the writing and speaking sections of the exam.

At its core, Subject-Verb Agreement hinges on understanding the distinction between singular and plural subjects. Singular subjects, such as “he,” “she,” or “it,” require verbs that are also in the singular form, for instance, “runs,” “speaks,” or “is.” Conversely, plural subjects, like “they” or “we,” necessitate plural verbs, such as “run,” “speak,” or “are.” This rule may seem straightforward, but its application can become complex due to English language exceptions and irregularities.

Recognizing the subject of a sentence and determining whether it is singular or plural is the first step toward applying the rule of Subject-Verb Agreement. This skill is crucial for TOEFL students, as it directly influences their grammatical accuracy, ultimately affecting their scores. As we progress, we will explore specific rules and examples to further elucidate this essential grammatical concept.

In the next section, we’ll break down the Key Rules for Subject-Verb Agreement, providing detailed explanations and examples for each.

Key Rules for Subject-Verb Agreement

Understanding and applying the rules of Subject-Verb Agreement can significantly enhance the grammatical accuracy of your sentences. Here are some crucial guidelines TOEFL students should master:

1- Singular Subjects with Singular Verbs:

Singular subjects require verbs in the singular form. This rule is fundamental for ensuring grammatical harmony in sentences. For instance, “The cat (singular subject) runs (singular verb) across the street.”

2- Plural Subjects with Plural Verbs:

Similarly, plural subjects must be accompanied by verbs in the plural form. This agreement is key to maintaining sentence clarity. Example: “The cats (plural subject) run (plural verb) across the street.”

3- Singular Indefinite Pronouns:

Indefinite pronouns such as “anyone,” “everyone,” “someone,” and “nobody” are treated as singular and require singular verbs. This rule often confuses learners due to the seemingly inclusive nature of these pronouns. For example, “Everyone (singular indefinite pronoun) likes (singular verb) ice cream.”

4-  Words That Appear Plural But Are Singular:

Certain nouns, such as “mathematics,” “news,” and “measles,” look plural due to their -s ending but are considered singular and take singular verbs. This rule underscores the importance of knowing individual word behaviors. Example: “Mathematics (singular noun) is (singular verb) fascinating.”

5- Collective Nouns’ Variability:

Collective nouns like “team,” “group,” or “jury” can take either singular or plural verbs, depending on whether the action refers to the group acting as a single unit or to individual members acting separately. This distinction is crucial for accurate expression. For instance, “The jury (collective noun) is (singular verb) unanimous in its verdict,” versus “The jury (collective noun) are (plural verb) arguing among themselves.”

6- Compound Subjects Joined by ‘And’:

When two or more subjects are combined with “and,” they generally take a plural verb, indicating collective action or state. Example: “The writer and the director (compound subject) are (plural verb) discussing the script.”

7- Compound Subjects Joined by ‘Or’, ‘Either…Or’, ‘Neither…Nor’:

The verb should agree with the part of the subject closer to the verb. This rule applies to subjects connected by “or,” “either…or,” or “neither…nor,” creating a situation where the verb must align with the nearest subject in terms of number. For example, “Neither the students nor the teacher (closest subject) is (singular verb) ready for the exam.”

Common Mistakes and Exceptions

While the rules of Subject-Verb Agreement form the foundation of grammatical accuracy, common mistakes and exceptions often lead to errors. One frequent error is misidentifying the true subject of a sentence, especially when it is separated from the verb by phrases or clauses. Another is applying plural verbs to collective nouns without considering the context of their usage.

Additionally, irregular verbs present a unique challenge, as their singular and plural forms do not follow the standard pattern. Understanding these exceptions and practicing their correct usage is vital for TOEFL students aiming for grammatical precision in their English.

Strategies for Mastering Subject-Verb Agreement

To master Subject-Verb Agreement, TOEFL students should engage in targeted practice that includes identifying subjects and verbs in reading materials, completing exercises focused on this grammatical rule, and applying the concepts in writing and speaking activities. Regular reading of well-edited texts can also help learners internalize correct usage patterns. Furthermore, discussing tricky sentences with peers or instructors can clarify doubts and reinforce learning.


Mastery of Subject-Verb Agreement is essential for TOEFL success and effective communication in English. By understanding and applying the rules, common mistakes, and exceptions, students can enhance their grammatical accuracy. Regular practice, combined with a strategic approach to learning, will enable TOEFL candidates to achieve proficiency in this fundamental aspect of English grammar, paving the way for higher scores on the exam and improved language skills.

Subject – Verb Agreement

Creating practice questions on Subject-Verb Agreement, along with answers and explanations, will further solidify the understanding of this grammatical rule for TOEFL students. Let’s start with these practice items to help students identify the correct verb forms in various contexts.

Practice Questions on Subject-Verb Agreement

The committee (decides/decide) on the new policy today.

Correct Answer : decides

“The committee” is a collective noun acting as a single unit here, so it takes a singular verb (“decides”).

Neither the manager nor his employees (was/were) aware of the changes.

Correct Answer : were

The verb agrees with the closer subject “his employees,” which is plural, hence “were.”

Each of the students (has/have) completed their project.

Correct Answer : has

“Each” is a singular indefinite pronoun, requiring the singular verb “has.”

Politics (is/are) often considered a controversial topic.

Correct Answer : is

“Politics” is treated as a singular noun when referring to the concept as a whole, so it takes the singular verb “is.”

All of the cookies (was/were) eaten.

Correct Answer : were

“All” can refer to a singular or plural subject depending on the context; here, it refers to “cookies” (plural), so the verb is “were.”

Either my brother or my sisters (is/are) going to sell the car.

Correct Answer : are

The verb agrees with the closer subject “my sisters,” which is plural, hence “are.”

The news (has/have) been overwhelming lately.

Correct Answer : has

“The news” is a singular noun, despite the plural-looking ending, and takes a singular verb “has.”

The flock of birds (fly/flies) south for the winter.

Correct Answer : flies

“The flock” is considered a single unit, requiring the singular verb “flies.”

Mathematics (is/are) my best subject in school.

Correct Answer : is

“Mathematics” is a singular noun and takes the singular verb “is.”

The team (was/were) divided on their opinions about the strategy.

Correct Answer : were

Here, “the team” refers to the members individually, hence the plural verb “were.”

Everybody in the class (has/have) finished the assignment.

Correct Answer : has

“Everybody” is a singular indefinite pronoun, so it takes a singular verb “has.”

A group of tourists (was/were) walking through the museum.

Correct Answer : was

“A group” acts as a single entity here, so the singular verb “was” is used.

The data (shows/show) a significant increase in sales this quarter.

Correct Answer : show

While “data” is plural, in contemporary usage, it can be treated as singular or plural; in academic and formal writing, however, it’s often plural, hence “show.”

Neither the laptops nor the smartphone (is/are) working properly.

Correct Answer : is

The verb agrees with the closer subject “the smartphone,” which is singular, so “is.”

Everyone (was/were) excited about the trip to the museum.

Correct Answer : was

“Everyone” is a singular indefinite pronoun, requiring the singular verb “was.”

  1. The pair of shoes (was/were) on sale.

Correct Answer : was

“The pair” is treated as a singular unit, so it takes the singular verb “was.”

Many a student (has/have) struggled with this concept.

Correct Answer : has

The phrase “many a” is followed by a singular noun and verb, so “has” is correct.

The scissors (is/are) on the table.

Correct Answer : are

“Scissors” is a plural noun and takes a plural verb “are.”

The number of applicants (is/are) increasing every year.

Correct Answer : is

“The number” is a singular expression, leading to the use of “is.”

A variety of books (is/are) available in the library.

Correct Answer : are

“A variety of” indicates multiple items, hence the plural verb “are.”

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Subject – Verb Agreement