Subject – Verb Agreement: “Plural vs. Singular”


5.  Quantity / Measurement

Quantities or measurements of time, money, distance, or weight usually take singular verbs.  Look at the object of preposition dealing with portions (fraction, percentage, majority, minority, and etc.) to determine whether to use a singular or a plural verb. 


 (a) A number of vs. the number of

“A number of” takes plural and “the number of” takes singular:


For example:

Ø The number of brochure distributed is five hundred.

Ø A number of students score below average.


(b) Fraction/Percentage:


For example:

Ø One half of the medication has been applied, but there is still no sign of life.

Ø Three fourths of the committee members vote for the proposal.

Ø One-third of the city is evacuated after the Katrina disaster.

Ø One-third of the people are evacuated after the Katrina disaster.

Ø Ninety percent of the population in Taiwan believes in Buddhism.

Ø Ninety percent of the population in Taiwan do not see eye to eye with each other.


(c) Majority/Minority

If it has abstract meaning, the verb is singular. 


For example:

Ø The great majority is illiterate in China .

Ø A majority of the committee members are against the proposal.

Ø A lot of the equipment is unusable.

Ø A lot of the airplanes have mechanical problems.


(d) Plural unit words

Verb takes singular form if it means one entity.


For example:

Ø Three hundred dollars is considered enough money to last a week.

Ø A thousand dollars have disappeared from the thin air.

Ø  Nine hours of work is considered to long.



6. Arithmetic Statement

The verb is always singular.


For example:

Ø Three minus one equals two.

Ø Eight plus two equals ten.

Ø Two times two equals four.

Ø Six divided by three equals two.

Ø Five times four subtracted by two is ten.


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