Subject-Verb Agreement means that a singular subject takes a singular verb and a plural subject takes a plural verb.
My brother is in town.
My brothers are in town.
In the first example the subject is singular: my brother. This makes the verb singular: is.
In the second example the subject is plural: my brothers. This makes the verb plural: are.
The first step is to identify whether the subject is singular or plural (this is known as Grammatical Number).
Usually this is not a problem:
It’s fairly easy to see that the first is singular (one doctor) and the second is plural (several books).
However, sometimes it can be confusing. For example:
Deciding if the team is singular or plural is not so easy and depends on how we perceive the team; If we see the team as a cohesive unit working together then we can say:
The team is playing well today.
However, if we see them, for example, as playing as individuals with no real cohesive structure we might say:
The team are playing badly today.
But it’s not only English native speakers who may find this a bit confusing. Speakers of other languages learning English also have difficulties with verb – subject agreement. Italians, for example, whose MT does not include non countable nouns often make mistakes like these:
* The spaghetti are ready!
* Where are my money?
* I don’t like her hair. They are too long.
* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence shows it is grammatically wrong
Once we know if the subject is singular or plural, we need to choose a singular or plural verb form. This is known as Grammatical Person.
My doctor is…
The books are…