Subject-Verb Agreement on Special Cases (Each, Every, Either...Or, Some, None, etc)

You know pretty well about the subject-verb agreement. The plural subjects have to take plural verb form and singular, singular verb form. But I found that several writers make simple mistakes with certain nouns, containing such words as 'everyone', 'none of', 'everybody', 'all', 'some', 'each', 'every', etc. Here are the guidelines.

These Words Are Singular

The words that are regarded to be singular and take only singular verb include these:

Not any
A little


Each student has to be approved for participation.
None of the students was approved.
Neither Tom nor Brad is acting in this film.
Everyone has to agree to the terms.
A little water has to be found.

Usage of Either...Or and Neither...Nor

In Either...or and Neither...nor there is room for ample confusion among grammarians. If both nouns are singular, obviously the verb is singular. If both nouns are plural, there is no doubt that the verb should be plural. But when it is mixed up, you should decide as to whether plural or singular you will be using. I suggest that you determine the verb with the nearest noun. Examples:

Either my friend or my brothers seem to think it is right.
Either my brothers or my friend has to help me.
Neither my friend, nor my brothers help anyone.

These Words Form Plural

The words that cause plural verbs are these:

A few
A number of


All of my friends weren't present.
Some of my friends couldn't find time.
A few dogs were found on the street.

Use of As Well As and Both...and

When you use as well as in a sentence, you should decide the verb according to the first noun (as opposed to the either...or usage above). Examples:

Tom as well as his friends was present.
Tom's friends as well as Tom were present.

On the other hand, both...and construction has to have plural verb always.

Both Tom and Brad were present
Both my friend and I were happy.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

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2 Opinions:

  1. Hi Lenin ,
    It is a nice way of representation.

    Here i would like to know how to get the portion of content in the separate box as you have done.

    Please write a post on this topic and it will be very useful for me.

  2. Hi Suresh,

    It's just a table I used to post these examples. You can find it by looking at the source of the page. I styled up the table using CSS properties. Do you want a post on this thing? I guess it should be easy for you as you know programming well. But if you need one post, just let me know.

    Thanks for your comment



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