§ 60. The most important type of agreement (concord) in English is that of the subject and the predicate in number and person. Thus a singular noun-subject requires a singular verb-predicate, a plural noun-subject requires a plural verb-predicate.
This rule of purely grammatical agreement concerns all present tenses (except modal verbs) and also the past indefinite of the verb to be.
World literature knows many great humorists.
Great humorists know how to make people laugh.
This rule remains true for:
a) All link verbs irrespective of the number of the predicative noun, as in:
Our only guide was the Polar star.
Our only guide was the stars.
b) The predicate of emphatic constructions with the formal subject it.
It was my friends who suddenly arrived.
It’s they who are responsible for the delay.
§ 61. The verb-predicate is in the singular if the subject is expressed by:
1. An infinitive phrase or phrases.
To know everything is to know nothing.
To be loved and to be wanted is always good.
2. A prepositional phrase.
After the meeting is the time to speak.
3. A clause introduced by a conjunction or conjunctive adverb.
Where you found him does not concern me.
How you got there is beyond my understanding.
Whether you find him or not does not concern me.
Subject clauses introduced by conjunctive pronouns what, who may be followed by either a singular or plural verb.
What I want to do is to save us.
What were once precious manuscripts were scattered all over the floor.
What I say and what I think are my own affair.
4. A numerical expression, such as arithmetical addition, subtraction, division.
Four and four is eight.
Four minus two is two.
Ten divided by five is two.
However multiplication admits of two variants.
Twice two is/are four.
5. The group many a + noun.
Many a man has done it.
Íè îäèí ÷åëîâåê ïðîäåëàë òàêîå. (Ìíîãèå...)
6. With there - constructions followed by subjects of different number, the predicate agrees with the subject that stands first. The same holds true for sentences with here.
There was a textbook and many notebooks on the table.
There were many notebooks and textbook on the table.
Here was Tom and Peter.
Here was a man, was experience and culture.
In informal style, however, the singular verb is often used before the subject in the plural if the form of the verb is contracted.
Is there any place in town that might have them? – There’s two.
There’s too many of them living up there.
There’s two kinds of men here, you’ll find.
7. Plural nouns or phrases when they are used as names, titles, quotations.
“Fathers and Sons” is the most popular of Turgenev’s novels.
However, the titles of some works which are collections of stories, etc., may have either a singular or a plural verb.
The “Canterbury Tales” consist of about seventeen thousand lines of verse.
Turgenev’s "Hunter’s Tales" was/were published in 1852.
All in the sense of «âñ¸» has a singular verb, while all in the sense of «âñå» takes a plural verb.
All is well that ends well.
All that glitters is not gold.
All were in favour of the plan.
2. Interrogative pronouns who, what take a singular verb-predicate.
Who has come? What is there?
But if the pronoun denotes more than one person or thing a plural verb-predicate is used.
Who are walking in the garden?
Who have agreed to act?
3. With relative pronouns the form of the verb depends on the noun or pronoun which is its antecedent.
Do you know the girl who lives next door?
(The girl lives...)
Do you know the girls who live next door?
(The girls live...)
Mary is one of those girls who never know what they will do next.
Even I, who have seen it all, can hardly believe it.
It is you who are right. It is I who am wrong.
But: It’s me who is wrong.
4. The universal pronoun both has a plural verb-predicate.
Which of the letters are yours? Both are mine.
Conjunctions connecting two or more homogeneous subjects
§ 63. A plural verb-predicate is used in the following cases:
1. With homogeneous subjects connected by and.
Sun and air are necessary for life.
Tom and Mary are my friends.
The ebb and the flow of the tide are regular.
However, with structures where coordinated nouns refer to one thing or person a singular verb-predicate is used.
Bread and butter is not enough for breakfast. (one object is meant)
Bacon and eggs makes a traditional English breakfast. (one dish is meant)
The painter and decorator is here. (one person is meant)
If the article is repeated, the reference is to two persons or objects, and a plural verb-predicate is used.
The bread and the butter are on the table. (two separate object are meant)
The painter and the decorator are here. (two persons are meant)
Likewise, when a singular noun-subject has two attributes characterizing the same person or non-person connected by and it has a singular verb and the article is not repeated.
A tall and beautiful girl was waiting in the office.
A black and white kitten was playing on the hearth rug.
But if the attributes characterize different persons or non-persons the verb is in the plural and the article is repeated.
A black and a white kitten were playing on the hearth rug. (A black kitten was playing and a white kitten was playing.)
The yellow and the red car were badly damaged.
However, the article is repeated before each attribute only with countable nouns. Uncountables have no article.
In modern hotels hot and cold water are supplied in every room.
American and Dutch beer are both much lighter than British.
Good and bad taste are shown by examples.
With plural nouns only one article is used.
The Black and Mediterranean Seas never freeze.
2. With homogeneous subjects connected by both... and.
Both the bread and the butter are fresh.
Both the teacher and the students have come.
§ 64. With homogeneous subjects connected by the conjunctions not only... hut also, either... or, or, neither... nor the verb-predicate agrees with the nearest noun-subject. (This is the so-called “proximity rule”.)
Either my sister or my parents are at home.
Either my parents or my sister is at home.
Neither you nor I am right.
Neither I nor you are right.
Not only my parents but also my brother knows about it.
Not only my brother but also my parents know about it.
Is Tom or Mary eager to meet you at the station?
§ 65. With homogeneous subjects connected by the conjunctions as well as, rather than, as much as, more than the verb-predicate agrees with the first one.
My parents as well as my sister are teachers.
My sister as well as my parents is a teacher.
The manager as well as/rather than/more than/as much as the members of the board is responsible for the
§ 66. Notional agreement is to be found in the following cases:
1. In modern English agreement there may be a conflict between form and meaning. It refers first of all to subjects expressed by nouns of multitude (see § 176, II), which may denote plurality being singular in form. In such cases the principle of grammatical agreement is not observed and there appears the so-called notional agreement, when the choice of the number is based on the fact whether the group of beings is considered as one whole or, as a collection of individuals taken separately (as discrete ones).
Thus the nouns of multitude (band, board, crew, committee, crowd, company, clergy, cattle, family, gang, group, guard, gentry, infantry, jury, militia, police, poultry, team) may have both a plural verb-predicate and a singular one depending on what is meant - a single undivided body or a group of separate individuals.
A new government has been formed.
The government have asked me to go, so I am leaving now.
It was now nearly eleven î'clock and the congregation were arriving...
The congregation was small.
How are your family?
Our family has always been a very happy one.
The commanding officer does not know where his cavalry is and his cavalry are not completely sure of
The crowd was enormous.
The crowd were silent.
The police is already informed.
I don’t know what the police are doing.
The cattle is in the mountains.
The cattle have stopped grazing. They know before you hear any sound that planes are approaching.
The jury decides whether the accused is guilty or not.
While the jury were out, some of the public went out for a breath of fresh air.
2. Subjects expressed by nouns denoting measure, weight, time, etc., have a singular verb-predicate when the statement is made about the whole amount, not about the discrete units.
Ten years is a long time.
Another five minutes goes by.
A million francs is a lot of money.
3. Notional agreement is also observed with subjects expressed by word-groups including nouns of quantity: a/the number of..., a/the majority of..., (a) part of..., the bulk of..., a variety of... . These admit of either a singular or a plural verb-predicate.
The number (êîëè÷åñòâî) of pages in this book isn’t large.
It was Sunday and a number (ìíîãèå) of people were walking about.
In Elisabeth’s reign the bulk of English vegetable supplies were imported from Holland.
4. Subjects expressed by such invariable plural nouns as goods (òîâàð, òîâàðû), contents (ñîäåðæàíèå, ñîäåðæèìîå), riches (áîãàòñòâî, áîãàòñòâà), clothes (îäåæäà), wages (çàðïëàòà), eaves (êàðíèç êðûøè) have a plural verb.
His wages were only 15 shillings a week.
I asked her what the contents were about.
His clothes were shabby.
The goods were delivered on time.
5. Subjects expressed by such invariable singular nouns as hair, money, gate, information (ñâåäåíèÿ), funeral (ïîõîðîíû), progress (óñïåõè), advice have a singular verb-predicate. These are called “singularia tantum” “âñåãäà åäèíñòâåííîå ÷èñëî», as they have no plural.
Her hair is beautiful.
The money is mine.
The gate is open.
The information was unusually interesting.
If the funeral is so detestable to you, you don’t have to go to it.
The corresponding Russian nouns used as subjects are either plural invariables (äåíüãè, âîðîòà, ïîõîðîíû) or have both the singular and the plural forms (ñîâåò - ñîâåòû, íîâîñòü - íîâîñòè).
6. Subjects expressed by invariable nouns ending in -s (“pluralia tantum” «âñåãäà ìíîæåñòâåííîå ÷èñëî») and denoting an indivisible notion or thing have a singular verb-predicate : measles (êîðü), mumps (ñâèíêà), billiards, dominoes, linguistics, economics, news, headquarters (øòàá), works (çàâîä).
No news is good news.
The new works that has been built in our district is very large.
Though nouns in -ics which are names of sciences and other abstract notions have a singular agreement when used in their abstract sense; they may have a plural verb-predicate when denoting qualities, practical applications, different activities, etc. (ethics – “moral rules”, gymnastics – “physical exercises”). Thus these nouns may be followed by either a singular or a plural verb.
a branch of science
collected numbers, figures representing facts
Statistics is a rather modern branch of mathematics.
These statistics show deaths per 1,000 of population.
Statistics on this subject are available,
the art of arranging military forces for battle
Tactics is one of the subjects studied in military academies.
Your tactics are obvious. Please, don’t insult my intelligence.
political affairs, political ideas
Politics is a risky profession.
Politics have always interested me.
What are your politics?
the art of making bricks, pots, etc.
articles produced in this way
Ceramics is my hobby.
Where he lives isn’t the provinces as far as ceramics are concerned, it’s the metropolis.
7. Subjects expressed by substantivized adjectives denoting groups of people (the blind, the dumb and deaf, the eminent, the mute, the old, the poor, the rich, etc.) always take the plural verb-predicate.
He did not look an important personage, but the emminent rarely do.