Let’s all agree on subject–verb agreement

It’s interesting, as Margaret Brenner of Towson University points out, that in the present tense, nouns and verbs form plurals in opposite ways: nouns ADD an “s” to the singular form, while verbs REMOVE the “s” from the singular form. The technician conducts tests. Technicians conduct tests. The overriding rule to remember is this: The subject and verb of a sentence must agree in number. Either both are singular or both are plural. The results were misleading, and it was discovered the system was at fault. When noun phrases are joined by “and,” the verb must be plural: Technicians’ health and safety were at risk. The equipment, the reagents, and the room temperature were all at fault. When the sentence contains alternative subjects (joined by “or,” “either…or,” “neither…nor,” or “not only…but also”), the verb must agree with the last subject: Not only the reagents, but the instrument was at fault. Either the instrument or the reagents were at fault.  Not only the instrument, but the reagents were at fault. A collective noun (referring to a group of people or things) may take either a singular or a plural verb. (Authors may decide whether to consider individual members within the unit or the unit as a whole, and the writing should be consistent throughout the paper.) A variety of dosages were tried. Or…A variety of dosages was tried. The group was pleased with the results of the experiment. Or…The group were pleased with the results. See our post on collective nouns …

Rick of the Precision Science Editing blog teamLet’s all agree on subject–verb agreement