Business Writing Tip #8 – Verbs and subjects have to agree

Make sure the verb and subject agree.

Today we’re back to talking about grammar.Please don’t groan.

Incorrect grammar can create an impression of laziness or not caring – not the image that you want to project in your business.

Quite simply the rule is that if your subject is plural, your verb must be plural too.

Take care in the following four situations:

a.      Two singular subjects – take a plural verb

Often people make mistakes with this when they’re speaking and nobody minds. But when it’s written, get it wrong and it looks bad. The confusion comes because the verb follows a singular subject – but there are two subjects so the verb has to be plural.

Alcohol and subsequent liver damage have taken their toll. (Not has.)

b.     A collective noun – a plural noun as part of a word cluster may confuse you

A flock of birds takes off and flies over the lake. (Birds may be plural but the subject of the sentence is the collective noun flock which is singular.)

c.      There is or there are?

Often we hear there is in speech when the correct version is there are.

For example, we hear people say, ‘There’s hundreds of people in front of me in the queue.’ If you find yourself writing something like this, double-check it. It sounds natural but it should be, ‘There are hundreds of people’.

d.     Pronouns that indicate an individual within a group take the singular verb form

  • Nobody
  • Someone
  • Somebody
  • Everybody
  • Everyone
  • Each
  • Either
  • Neither
  • No one

So, ‘Somebody from that section is coming to the meeting’, or ‘No one is coming’ or ‘Each of the words in the above list requires the singular verb form’.

In case you missed them, you can download tips #1 to #5 here:

Business Writing Tips 1 – 5.

3 thoughts on “Business Writing Tip #8 – Verbs and subjects have to agree

  1. Thanks for your comment. Are there any particular problems you are having? I might be able to address them in a future blog post…

    • Zuzana, commas can be tricky. I find people either don’t put in enough and so their meaning is unclear, or they put in too many. I will research the topic and post something. It won’t be for a couple of weeks though. I already have the next few posts ready. But please keep checking back, or subscribe to the newsletter which will send you a weekly email with the most recent blog posts. Regards, Dalice