Are There Exceptions to Subject Verb Agreement Rules.

When students learn to construct their first sentences, be it in english as a second language or native classrooms, they are soon introduced to the rules around subject verb agreements. However, as we are dealing with English there are always exceptions to our grammatical rules.

There are certainly times when subject verb agreement exceptions exist and if you are a teacher you will know all too well that students have an uncanny ability to find those rule exceptions just after you introduced them

Below we will take a look at some examples and possible explanations you can give if you are explicitly teaching these subject verb agreement exceptions, or if you have the question come up and need to explain it to your students.

We also have links to resources to help you with both sentence construction and some of the verb tenses as supplementary materials. We list these at the end of the article.

What is Subject Verb Agreement?

Just to make sure we are all on the same page we will highlight what exactly is Subject Verb agreement below with an image and an Explanation. Then we will move on to when, and what exceptions there are to the

Subject-verb agreement means that a subject and an action word should always match. Still confused? Continue reading to find a subject-verb agreement definition, a subject-verb agreement examples, and useful subject-verb agreement worksheets. The following rules of subject-verb agreement will assist you in avoiding errors related to subject verb agreement. 

Here’s one subject-verb agreement definition: if the subject of a sentence is singular, then you need to use the singular form of an action word for your sentence. Likewise, to avoid a subject-verb agreement error, if you use a plural subject in a sentence, you must match it with a plural form of an action word. How does subject-verb agreement sound so far?

In English sentences, the verb chosen must agree with its subject in form and meaning. Learn simple rules about subject-verb agreement to help make your writing clearer and more accurate.

What is subject-verb agreement?

Subject-verb agreement means that a subject and its verb must be both singular or both plural:

  • A singular subject takes a singular verb
  • A plural subject takes a plural verb

In the following examples, first identify the subject and verb, then see if the verb agrees with the subject in being singular or plural.

1. John live in France.

2. John lives in France.

3. The arguments is sound and well supported.

4. The arguments are sound and well supported.


Sentence 2 is correct because the subject John (singular ‘he’) ‘agrees with’ the third person singular form of the verb to live – lives. Sentence 1 is incorrect because the subject is singular while the verb live is plural.

Similarly, Sentence 4 is correct and Sentence 3 incorrect because the subject arguments (plural ‘they’) requires the third person plural form of the verb to be – are.

Five rules about subject-verb agreement

In the examples below, the subject of each sentence is in bold. It can be useful to consider what pronoun could perform the same function as the subject; this is shown in brackets where applicable.

1. Singular subjects joined by the word and are generally plural.

Both the Art teacher and the students (They) enjoy a student-centered approach.

2. Indefinite pronouns (someone, anyone, no one, anybody, somebody, nobody, one, either, neither) usually take a singular verb.

No one likes to fail at university.

3. Nouns used with a quantifier (some, any, all, most) can be singular or plural. This depends on whether the noun is countable or uncountable.

Some of the policies (They) were rejected whilst others were approved. (policies = plural countable noun)

Some of the research (It) was conducted at the University of Melbourne. (research = uncountable noun)

4. After a subject joined by either … orneither … nor, or not only … but also, the verb agrees with the subject nearest to it.

Neither the lecturer nor the students want to reschedule the class. (want agrees with students)

5. There is and there are agree with the noun that follows.

There is flexibility in this kind of management structure.

There are many advantages to this kind of management structure.

When Does Subject Verb Agreement Not Apply?

Exceptions to the subject-verb agreement do occur. The rule states that a singular subject should have a singular verb and a plural subject should have a plural verb.

Exception 1: All pronouns obey the subject-verb agreement rule except for and you. Even though they are singular, they always take a plural verb.

Example: I work. You work. He works. We work. They work.

Indefinite pronouns are always singular and include the following:

anyone, anything, no one, nothing, neither, either, what, whatever, whoever, somebody, something, someone, each, everyone, everything, everybody

When Does Subject Verb Agreement Apply?

Examples of Subject Verb Agreement not Applying

This is a list of common exceptions to subject-verb agreement.

Some nouns are always singular (you have to memorize these nouns):

  • The news is groundbreaking.
  • Measles is a disease.
  • The series was excellent!

Some collective nouns (which represent a group) could either be singular or plural, depending on if the noun refers to the group or the group members. In American English, the verb is usually singular. 

  • The group meets at 9 o’clock. (refers to the group)
  • The group meet at 9 o’clock. (refers to each group member)

Titles of books, plays, operas, and films are always singular.

  • The Cows is a great movie!

When the word “pair” is used, the verb is singular.

  • That pair of shoes is expensive.
  • Shoes are expensive.

When “none” is used, the verb is singular. 

  • None of my shoes fit me.

“All” depends on whether the noun is countable. 

  • Count nouns: All my shoes fit me.
  • Non-count nouns: All of my water spills over the table.

“Each” and “every” are always singular when used with a singular noun. With a plural noun it is grammatically singular, as well. 

  • Each person is special.
  • Every person is special.
  • Each of the books is special.
  • Every one of the books is special.

“Either”…”or”: Depends on the number of the last noun before the verb (same rule applies for “neither”….”nor”.)

  • Either my sister or brothers buy the groceries.
  • Either my brothers or my sister buys the groceries.

Sentence Construction Worksheets and Activities

Verb Tense Worksheets and Activities


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