Subject – Verb Agreement: “Plural vs. Singular”


This is to continue my topic around countable vs. uncountable nouns.


How do we differentiate when verb should be singular vs. plural?


1. Collective nouns:

Depending on the meaning, the verb can be singular or plural.  


(a) When referring to a single entity, it is followed by a singular verb. 


For example:

  1. 1.  The audience is listening attentively to the speech. 
  2. 2.  Our school soccer team, which is in desperate need of a win at tonight’s game, is famous for its defense tactics.
  3. 3.  Dublin Fire Brigade, which is the largest fulltime brigade in the country, has over 900 personnel.
  4. 4.  My family has a history of taking in wounded animals.
  5. 5.  The board of directors, which comprises mainly top executives, meets this afternoon to discuss bonuses.
  6. 6.  The staff is in a meeting.
  7. 7.  The committee is made up of five members.
  8. 8.  The crowd rallies at the football game.
  9. 9.  The class is unusually quiet today.
  10. 10.  A pair of scissors is broken.
  11. 11.  The pair of shoes on display was stolen.


(b) If the noun refers to specific individuals in a group, it is followed by a plural verb.


For example:

  1. 1.  A group of civil engineers are attending the conference in Washington D.C.
  2. 2.  Our class are arguing vociferously with each other on the theory of free market.
  3. 3.  The staff are in disagreement about the approach they should take to react to market condition.
  4. 4.  The team members are in disagreement about the approach they should take to react to market condition.
  5. 5.  Nowadays, kids are watching too much TV and the media have become powerful influences on youth. 
  6. 6.  The police are chasing after the thief.
  7. 7.  The data you provided are unsound.
  8. 8.  The pair from Chicago are quite odd. (indicates the two people from Chicago, instead of a single entity)




(i) Data is the plural form of the word "datum.", meaning “facts or pieces of information”.

For example:  The latest data show that women live longer than men.


(ii) However, when used as a singular mass noun, it means “information”. 

For example:    Very little data is available regarding Egypt ’s pyramids.


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