The Essentials of Writing

The Hamilton College Style Sheet

Essentials of English Usage

Agreement ("agr")

A verb must agree with its subject in number and in person.

 Determine the word or words which are the real subject and which therefore govern the number of each verb. Do the same with pronouns, because

 A definite pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number, gender, and person.

1. The students and the instructor have little time for play. [Compound subjects (the students and the instructor) regularly take plural verbs (have).]

 2. Neither the students nor the instructor has much time for play. [When the subjects are introduced by either ...or or neither...nor, the verb agrees with the nearer subject.]

 3. The most exasperating part of golf courses is the sand traps. [The subject is part. Do not let an intervening phrase or clause or predicate noun (i.e., golf courses) determine the number of a verb.]

 4. Each of the students in Dunham was asked not to pull tiles down from the ceiling. [The indefinite pronouns any, anybody, each, neither, everyone, either, everybody, and nobody should be followed by singular verbs and pronouns.]

 5. She is one of those doctors who think they know everything. [The relative pronoun who is the subject of the dependent clause. Since the antecedent of who is the plural doctors, the verb think must be plural as well and other parts made consistent.]


See also Pronoun Reference ("p-ref")  and The Sixth Deadly Sin: Pronoun Problems.