Tag Archive - Subject-verb agreement

Are You Singular?

Sometimes using singular verbs sounds wrong, but we’re back to the rules again. When you use a singular noun, your verb needs to be singular. Take a look at the correct sentences and see whether you would have written them correctly.

  • “My favorite type of movie is thrillers,” but “Thrillers are my favorite type of movie.”
  • “Neither is correct.” (And, just as in rule number 1, the presence of a modifier is irrelevant: “Neither of them is correct.”)
  • “The pot of eggs is boiling on the stove.”
  • “Either the dog or the cats are responsible for the mess.” (“Either the cats or the dog is responsible for the mess” is also technically correct but is awkward.)
  • “His staff is assembled,” but “Staff are asked to go to the conference room immediately.” (In the first sentence, the emphasis is on the body of employees; in the second sentence, the focus is on compliance by each individual in the body of employees.)
  • “The United Nations is headquartered in New York.”
  • “The economics of the situation are complicated,” but “Economics is a complicated topic.”
  • “I am one of those eccentrics who do not tweet.” (The verb goes with the noun: eccentrics. Think “those who do not tweet”)
  • “I am the only one of my friends who does not tweet.” (think “one who does not tweet”)
  • “The number of people here boggles the mind.” (number is singular)

Clearly, there is no singular rule about singularity. Alas.