ACT English: Subject – Verb Agreement

ACT English: Subject – Verb Agreement

It’s extremely likely that you’ll face some questions in the ACT English section that test your knowledge of subject-verb agreement. With just a little practice this can be one of the easiest areas to rack up points in the English section.

Let’s look at some basic rules governing Subject-Verb construction.

1. Verbs agree with their subjects in person.

First-person:

I am a good student.

We are good students.

Second-person:

You are going to get a great ACT score!

Third-person:

He was very good at writing essays.

She is excellent at trigonometry.

Sharon is going to study abroad next year.

2. Verbs agree with their subjects in number.

A singular subject requires a singular verb.

Lois fills up her gas tank whenever it’s low.

A plural subject requires a plural verb.

Lois and Marie fill up her gas tank whenever it’s low.

They were going to fill up the tank, but they forgot.

Verbs may not always follow directly after the subject.

The puppies in the cages at the mall looked so adorable.

3. Generally, collective nouns take singular verbs.

Collective nouns are nouns that imply more than one person (such as a group, a team, a family, etc.). Even though they imply more than one person, the nouns themselves are singular and require singular verb forms.

The board is reviewing the plans to revise the budget.

The family was concerned over the recent tax hikes.

Occasionally collective nouns will take plural verbs when the collective noun is meant in the sense of many individuals and not the group as a whole.

A number of people are interested in running for governor.

4. When collective nouns are in plural form, they require plural verbs.

The boards are reviewing the plans to revise the budget.

The families were concerned over the recent tax hikes.

5. Compound subjects are made with the conjunction and. They require plural verbs.

Benjamin and Sarah love to ride their bikes.

6. Two singular subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor take a singular verb

Either Jeffrey or Donna is going to eat the leftovers.

Neither Clair nor Daniel is attending the meeting.

7. When a singular and plural subject are connected by either/or, the verb agrees with the item closest to it.

Either Jeffrey or the girls are going to eat the leftovers.

Either the girls or Jeffrey is going to eat the leftovers.

Here are some common words that will always require singular verbs: each, everyone, every one, everybody, anyone, someone, and somebody.

Keep a list of these rules next to you as you study and get in the habit of “matching” a sentence’s subject to its verb!