Two Subjects (Nouns) with Singular Verb

Grammar Tutorial on Two Subjects (Nouns) with Singular Verb


Subject-verb agreement is a fundamental aspect of English grammar. One common area of complexity is when one sentence contains two or more subjects. Particularly, handling two nouns with a singular verb requires an understanding of specific rules. This tutorial will guide you through the intricacies of these situations.

What are Two Subjects with a Singular Verb?

Generally, verbs agree with their subjects in number; a singular subject takes a singular verb while a plural subject takes a plural verb. However, situations arise when two subjects share a singular verb. The verb agreement rules which govern these situations can be difficult to master. Herein, we address this complex topic in detail.

Rules Governing Two Subjects (Nouns) with Singular Verb

Rule 1: Two Singular Subjects connected by "And"

Usually, two singular subjects connected by "and" require a plural verb. For example:

  • "John and Mary are going to the party."
  • However, when two nouns refer to the same person or thing, they take a singular verb. For example:

  • "The owner and manager is Mr. Brown."
  • Rule 2: Two Singular Subjects connected by "Or" or "Nor"

    When two singular nouns are connected by "or" or "nor," a singular verb is used. For example:

  • "A dog or a cat is in the room."
  • Rule 3: A Singular and a Plural Subject connected by "Or" or "Nor"

    If a singular and a plural noun are connected by "or" or "nor," the verb should agree with the noun that is nearest to it. For example:

  • "Neither the dogs nor the cat is outside."
  • "Neither the cat nor the dogs are outside."
  • Rule 4: Collective Nouns

    Collective nouns take a singular verb when the group acts as one unit. For example:

  • "The team is winning."
  • However, when members of the group act individually, the verb becomes plural. For example:

  • "The team are arguing among themselves."
  • Common Mistakes and Tips to Avoid Them

    Mistake 1: Mistaking Prepositional Phrases for Subject

    The noun in a prepositional phrase is not the subject of the sentence, and therefore does not influence verb agreement. So when dealing with noun phrases using “as well as”, “in addition to”, “together with”, etc., don’t be misled. The verb should still match the main subject.
    For example:

  • "James, as well as his friends, is studying." (Not "are studying")
  • Mistake 2: Dealing with Indefinite Pronouns

    Indefinite pronouns, such as each, everyone, someone, anybody, neither, either, and one, all require singular verbs.
    For example:

  • "Everyone is ready for the trip."
  • By understanding these rules and being conscious of the common mistakes, you can significantly improve your mastery over subject-verb agreement with two subjects and a singular verb. Always remember to consider the context and meaning of the sentence to choose the right verb form.


    Though English grammar can occasionally feel burdensome, understanding its rules allows for effective and eloquent communication. The topic of two subjects (nouns) with a singular verb is a good example of this. By keeping the discussed rules in mind and avoiding common mistakes, you can be certain to communicate clearly and effectively in any context.

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