When it comes to IELTS writing, it is essential to have a good grasp of grammar. In particular, you need to master the basics, and one of the most basic parts of grammar is subject-verb agreement.
In this blog, we will explain subject-verb agreement so that you can understand it well enough to score a higher band in your IELTS test.
What is Subject-Verb Agreement?
In the English language, sentences need to have at least one subject and one verb, and these must be in agreement. For example:
> I eat breakfast every day.
> She eats breakfast every day.
You can see that “I” matches with “eat” and “she” matches with “eats.”
Singular or Plural Subjects
The subjects of sentences are either SINGULAR (= ONE) or PLURAL (= MORE THAN ONE), and this also affects the type of verb you need in a sentence. Now, in many cases, it is very easy to tell if the subject of your sentence is singular or plural. For instance:
Students often find it hard to focus on exams.
It is difficult to find a job without work experience.
The subject ‘it’ is singular so ‘is’ used as a singular verb, and the subject ‘students’ is plural so the verb ‘find’ is plural.
Sometimes we have a plural noun that is grouped as part of a singular noun, such as:
> A pair of trousers.
> A group of birds.
> A team of experts.
Even though the word that seems important (trousers, birds, experts) is in plural form, it is actually the first noun that is the main subject here. So you will use a singular verb with the singular noun:
> A pair of trousers is what I’m looking for.
> A group of birds is on that branch.
> A team of experts is coming to visit.
Subject-Verb Agreement with Multiple Nouns
One of the hardest parts of subject-verb agreement is dealing with multiple subjects. That doesn’t mean the same as plural nouns, but rather when there are several subjects mentioned in the sentence. For example:
> Eating and sleeping are important for your health.
Here, we have two subjects:
When there are two or more things mentioned, you must use the plural-form verb, “are.”
Neither and Either
With these phrases, the verb must agree with the noun that is closest to the verb:
> Neither the child nor her parents are at the school.
> Either my brother or my sisters usually help me.
Indefinite Pronouns as subjects
A common mistake is made in subject-verb agreement with indefinite pronouns as candidates often assume they must take a plural verb because they refer to more than one thing. Indefinite pronouns take singular verbs.
> Everyone seems to be nervous about the exam.
> Something needs to be done about the increasing rate of crime.
Subject-Verb Agreement Sample Exercises
a. Answer to choose the correct verb:
- Sally (run, runs) to the park every day.
- The dogs (bark, barks) at strangers.
- Ted and Mary (is, are) going to the movies.
- The game (was, were) exciting.
- My friends (worry, worries) too much.
- They (watch, watches) television every day.
- Our family (love, loves) sports.
- We (study, studies) before a test.
- One of the teams (is, are) missing.
- 10. He (live, lives) in that big house.
b. Correct these sentences:
- Cooking dinner for several children are a big challenge.
- A tree and a bush is located just outside my window.
- Two cameras and a tripod is all I’m taking with me.
- A pair of shorts are enough for this trip.
- Going shopping to buy lots of clothes are my hobby.
Please make sure that you take the time to learn subject-verb agreement rules before your IELTS exam day. You should NEVER make subject/verb agreement mistakes in your IELTS test. Keep on practicing to strengthen your writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills.
Once you’re ready to take the IELTS Writing Test, book your seat in advance.
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