Tag Archive - Noun-Verb Agreement

Let’s Be in Agreement

I think we can all agree that subjects and verbs need to agree with one another. A singular subject takes a singular verb.

  • Nancy is the school librarian.

Plural subjects take plural verbs:

  • Nancy and Ned are friends.

But we don’t always write with such simple subjects. What is the correct verb form in these sentences?

  • A pack of wolves was/were howling in the distance.
  • A bundle of ballots was/were found in the official’s car.
  • A flock of geese is/are migrating overhead.

Each subject includes both a singular and a plural noun: pack—singular/wolves—plural; bundle—singular/ballots—plural; flock—singular/geese—plural. So do you use a singular or plural verb?

I could get into a lot of technical terms here like notional vs. formal agreement and predeterminer. But I prefer Merriam-Webster’s “plain sense” solution: “When you have a collecting noun phrase (a bunch of) before a plural noun (the boys), the sense will normally be plural and so should the verb.” Continue Reading…