The UVic Writer's Guide


Verb Agreement


Apart from the effort necessary to get pronouns to agree properly with their antecedents and to use the form appropriate to their sentence function, the residue of the old inflectional system of English requires us to attend to verb agreement in the present tense, according to which we distinguish between

22a He studies

and

22b They study.

This kind of agreement is not intrinsically difficult to deal with, but it is possible to lose track of the subject of a sentence or to get confused as to whether the subject is singular or plural. Most people are inclined to say

23a Neither of us wish to go,

rather than

23b Neither of us wishes to go,

though when we think about it we know that "neither" should logically be construed as a singular pronoun form, which therefore requires a singular verb form. Once again it is the immediately preceding plural form "us" that throws us off.

The UVic Writer's Guide's advice about writing clear sentences will also give you information about subject/verb agreement that you'll find helpful.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated Sept 24, 1995