Subject-verb agreement is one of the first things you learn in English class:
“My friend is Japanese.” (singular)
“My friends are Japanese.” (plural)
In this English lesson, you’re going to learn a few more advanced cases of subject-verb agreement that confuse many learners.
everybody / anybody / somebody / nobody
everyone / anyone / someone / no one
These subjects are all singular!
“Everyone have problems.”
“Everyone has problems.”
“I don’t know if anybody is in the office right now.”
“How do you react if someone gives you a compliment?”
“Nobody likes the new English teacher.”
club / team / family / army
These subjects are also singular, even though they are talking about a group of people.
“My family is visiting me for the holidays.”
“The basketball team has a new coach.”
Note: In British English “family” and “team” are often plural.
Usually, “police” is plural:
“The police are investigating the murder.”
“Police have arrested three suspects.”
To talk about an individual member of the police, we can say policeman or policewoman - or the gender-neutral term police officer.
people / children / men / women / mice / feet
These words are irregular plural nouns (nouns that are not formed by adding -s) and they take the plural form of the verb:
“Our children are very well-behaved.”
“The people like the new president.”
“Men don’t usually enjoy shopping for clothes.”
“My feet are cold.”
both of / a few of / many / several
These words always take the plural form of the verb:
“Both of my brothers are older than me.”
“A few of these products have defects.”
“Many of the houses in this neighborhood don’t have garages.”
“Several of the students aren’t going to pass.”
half of / a third of / 40% of / some / most
These words can be singular OR plural depending on what follows them!
“Half of the students are from another country.”
“Half of the class is from another country.”
“Some of these facts are incorrect.”
“Some of this information is incorrect.”
“40% of the people don’t support the new law.”
“40% of the country doesn’t support the new law.”
Is “data” singular or plural?
There is a debate about the word “data”! Technically, data is plural (the singular form is “datum”). However, in common usage, people often treat “data” like “information” – as an uncountable noun, which takes the singular form. So both forms are correct: “The data is accurate” and “The data are accurate.” You can read more about the “data debate” here and here.
Quiz: Advanced Subject-Verb Agreement
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