Ensuring agreement within a sentence is pivotal for clear and effective communication in English. When elements in a sentence agree, they align in terms of number, person, and gender. This tutorial will delve into the primary areas of agreement: subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement.
The basic principle is that a singular subject takes a singular verb, while a plural subject takes a plural verb.
- Singular subjects take singular verbs:
Example: The cat runs fast.
- Plural subjects take plural verbs:
Example: The cats run fast.
Many indefinite pronouns can be particularly tricky. Some are always singular, some are always plural, and some can be both depending on the context.
- Always singular: anyone, everyone, someone, nobody, each, either, neither, etc.
Example: Neither of the options is suitable.
- Always plural: several, few, both, many, etc.
Example: Several of the books are missing.
- Can be singular or plural: some, any, none, all, most, etc.
Example (singular): All of the pie is gone.
Example (plural): All of the pies are gone.
When subjects are joined by “and”, use a plural verb. But, if the parts of the subject form a single unit or are considered singular, then use a singular verb.
- The dog and the cat are friends.
- Peanut butter and jelly is my favorite sandwich.
Pronouns must agree with their antecedents (the nouns they replace) in number, gender, and person.
- Singular antecedents take singular pronouns:
Example: The girl lost her book.
- Plural antecedents take plural pronouns:
Example: The boys lost their books.
Remember, indefinite pronouns like everyone, anyone, and nobody are considered singular.
- Everyone should do their best.
Note: While “their” is historically plural, it is now widely accepted as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun.
Collective nouns (e.g., team, jury, group) can be tricky. Treat them as singular if the group acts as one unit and plural if individual members act separately.
- The jury has reached its decision.
- The team are wearing their different jerseys today.
Understanding agreement within a sentence helps make your writing clear and free from common grammatical errors. By remembering the rules and examples provided, you can ensure that your subjects and verbs, as well as pronouns and antecedents, always agree.