Subject-Verb Agreement: Tricky Areas

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Compound Subjects

A. Two or more nouns, pronouns, gerunds, or infinitives joined by and that share the same verb usually take the plural.

1. Both parts singular (plural verb)

Yu-rin’s exceptional acting and multiple language fluency make her an interesting character.

2. Both parts plural (plural verb)

Yu-rin’s silly antics and tricks capture Gong-chan’s attention.

3. One part singular, one part plural (either order) (plural verb)

Snow globes and the first snowfall of the year are both extremely important to Yu-rin and Gong-chan. The Christmas tree star and memories are all Yu-rin has left of Gong-chan after she is forced to leave Korea.

Caveat: Do not incorrectly make the second part of a compound subject agree with the verb (when singular).

Gong-chan’s grandfather and Gong-chan’s ex-girlfriend make (should not be makes) life difficult for Yu-rin and Gong-chan.

B. Exception 1: If two noun elements refer to the same entity, they effectively constitute a single subject. Rum and Coke was his favorite drink. The president and CEO expects to attend. Drinking and driving is a crime.

C. Exception 2: When the pronoun each (or every) precedes a compound subject, it becomes the subject and is treated as a singular entity. The bicycle and the wagon were packed. BUT Each bicycle and wagon was packed. Every bicycle and wagon was packed. Each of the bicycles and wagons was packed. Every one of the bicycles and wagons was packed. Each and every bicycle and wagon was packed BUT The bicycle and wagon each were packed.