Subject/Verb Agreement


Choose the correct word.

  1. Donald is one of those politicians who (worries/worry) about penis size.
  2. Marco is the only one of the politicians who (brings/bring) penis size up.
  3. Ted, together with his advisers, (has/have) decided not to mention penis size.
  4. The number of politicians having penises (is/are) steadily declining.
  5. A number of serious policy issues for the upcoming election (has/have) yet to be discussed.

Answers 1. worry  2. brings  3. has  4. is  5. have

Subjects and verbs have to agree in person and number (fist, second, and third person singular – I, you, he, (she, it); plural – we, you, they).  Simple mistakes in subject/verb agreement are rare. Nobody says I are, we am, I does, or he do. You sometimes hear he don’t for he doesn’t in non-standard dialects. Errors occur when the subject is difficult to determine. In a clause introduced by “who,” the verb agrees with the noun to which the “who” refers. In the first sentence, who refers to the politicians who all worry about penis size, and the verb is plural. (Of all the politicians who worry about penis size, Donald is one) In the second sentence, Marco is the only one who brings penis size up, so the “who” refers to him, and the verb is singular. In the third sentence, Ted is the subject. If the advisers were equals in making the decision, they would be joined to Ted by “and,” making two subjects. Two or more subjects require a plural verb: Ted and his advisers have decided.  Words following phrases like “together with” don’t become part of the subject. A wife, together with (along with, as well as, in addition to, including) her husband, makes the decisions. A wife and her husband make the decisions. In sentences 4 and 5, the subject is number. “The number” + a takes a singular verb; “a number of” takes a plural verb.

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