Sentence Agreement Basic Rules

A plural subject takes a plural verb.

Dogs make excellent pets.
The plural subject dogs matches the plural verb make.

They like coffee.
The plural subject they matches the plural verb like.

Two or more singular nouns connected by and are normally followed by a plural verb.

John and Peter are going to the movies.
Oil and water do not mix.
He and I were at Oxford together.
Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were great presidents.

When the subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor are of different numbers, the plural subject should be written last and it should be followed by a plural verb.

Neither the chief minister nor his colleagues have visited the site.
Neither the principal nor the lecturers were present at the meeting.
Either John or his parents are responsible for this.

When the subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor are of different persons, the verb should agree in person with the subject nearest to it. The subjects should be arranged in the proper order - the person spoken to, first; the person spoken of, second; and the speaker, last.

Neither he nor I have money to spare for this.
Either you or John has to take the lead in this matter.

Sections in this article

Sentence agreement
Sentence agreement: plural subjects
Sentence agreement: collective nouns
Sentence agreement: indefinite pronouns


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