RULES OF CONCORD -- AGREEMENT BETWEEN SUBJECT AND VERB



What is concord?

Concord simply means agreement or harmony between two people, objects or things.
In English language, concord refers to a grammatical agreement between two parts -- subject and verb -- of a sentence.

Rules of Concord

Subject-verb concord is when the subject of a sentence and the verb of a sentence agree. Simply, if the subject of the sentence is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject of a sentence is plural, the verb must be plural.

Look at the examples below:
1. The books (subject) is  (verb) joined together by a staple.

2. The books (subject) are  (verb) joined together by a staple.

Number 2 is correct, because the subject, ‘books’, and the verb, ‘are’, are both plural. They agree.

It is a little bit difficult to know the concord of subject and verb when phrase comes in between the two -- subject and the verb.

Take a look at these examples:

3. The point between the lines is that we need to finish before Monday.

4. The point between the lines are that we need to finish before Monday.

The temptation here is to look at the word in front of the verb (the plural ‘lines’) and choose the verb that agrees with it (the plural ‘are’). This is wrong. The subject of the sentence is not ‘lines’. It is ‘point’. So, because the subject, ‘point’, is singular, we use the singular verb ‘is’. The phrase ‘between the lines’ is a prepositional phrase (starting with a preposition), which is why it’s not the subject of the sentence.

Try your hand at these:

5. The issue of coke bottles are for the convocation.

6. The issue of coke bottles is for the convocation.

The correct answer is number 6. ‘issue’ is singular, so use the singular verb ‘is’.

7. The view in our offices is that our bonuses were too small.

8. The view in our offices are that our bonuses were too small.

The correct answer is number 7. ‘view’ is singular, and the singular verb ‘is’ agrees with it.

Two subjects connected by either/or, or neither/nor

If you have two singular subjects that are connected by either/or, or neither/nor, use the singular verb.

Look at these examples:

9. Neither Tunde nor Tunji has the keys to the room.

10. Either Mary or Shade is in charge of the program.

Even though you’re discussing two people, only one of them (singular) is taking action, so the verb is singular.

What do you do when one of the subjects is plural and the other isn’t?

Look at these examples:

11. Neither Tunde (singular) nor his helpers (plural) have the keys to the room.

12. Either the stewards (plural) or Mary (singular) is in charge of the program.

Two subjects connected by ‘and

When you have two subjects connected by ‘and’, use the plural form of the verb.

Look at these examples:

14. Ade and Samson are  responsible for damages done to the doors.

15. Elizabeth and Ramat are  our new project managers.

Exception to the above rule is when two names mentioned refer to an entity.

For example:

16. The inventor and seller of the Microsoft is Apple Ltd.

Plural subjects that call for singular verbs
Use a singular verb when you have a subject that conveys a single unit of distance, time, or money.

17. Eighty-five cents is a great bargain for a SIM card.

18. One thousand kilometres is a difficult daily drive for me.

19 Twenty minutes is what I'm left with to complete the assignment.

Other subjects that call for singular verbs

The following words need singular verbs: each, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, somebody, nobody, someone, none etc.

Look at these examples:

20. Each of our staff members has to fill in an evaluation form.

21.  Anyone who wants a day off in lieu of overtime must still fill out a leave form.

22. Someone has left a coffee cup on the glass of the photocopy machine.

23. None of us wants to admit to being behind on filing.

Subjects that are collective nouns

Look at these examples:

24. The panel wants to visit the victims of the crisis.

25. The family is in a meeting on the issue.

26. The class is due to start the exam any moment.

The panel, family, and class are made up of many individual members, but each forms a collective, singular subject. Thus, a singular verb is used. Be careful not to make this mistake, though:

27. The staff is in a meeting to discuss their appraisals.

Now, you have a singular subject (staff), a singular verb (is), and a plural pronoun (their) in the same sentence. To improve concord, rather rewrite the sentence in one of the following ways:

28. The staff is in a meeting to discuss appraisals.

29. The staff members are in a meeting to discuss their appraisals.

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