Compound subjects, collective nouns, and plural nouns used as titles of courses or subject areas can create confusion regarding subject-verb agreement. Following are guidelines for using a singular or plural verb in such cases.

1) Compound Subject Joined by and—Singular Verb

Use the singular verbs for compound subjects joined by and:

ç When the subject is considered a unit (research and development)

ç When both parts of the subject are modified by each or every.


- The secretary and treasurer has filed the minutes.

- Each owner and every pet receives a prize for entering our pet show.

2) Compound Subject Joined by and—Plural Verb

Except for the cases already noted, compound subjects joined by and take a plural verb.


- Rain and hail were falling at the same time.

- Tom and Samira have resigned over this matter.

- There are one book and two paintings on the floor.

- Are the computer and the typewriter both IBM?

3) Compound Subjects Joined by or / nor—Singular Verb

Use the singular verb:

ç If the subject next to the verb is considered singular or

ç If both parts of the subject are singular.


- The drawers or the closet is the place to look.

- Is the horse or the pony loose again?

- Neither Alan nor Julie remembers borrowing my car.

4) Compound Subjects Joined by or / nor—Plural Verb

The plural verb is used if the subject nearest the verb is plural or if both parts of the subject are plural.


- The closet or the drawers are the place to look.

- The directors or the producers receive all the credit.

- Neither the girls nor their teachers were aware of the approaching high tide.

5) Plural Nouns—Singular Verb

Plural nouns used as the titles of courses or subject areas or as measurements or units of quantity (dollars, pounds, inches) take a singular verb.


- Humanities has a long, involved reading list.

- I weighed myself, and twelve pounds has to go!

- Forty miles seems a long way to walk in one day.

- Is $2,500 a good price for this car?

6) Collective Nouns—Singular or Plural Verbs

To emphasize the collective noun as unit, use the singular verb. To refer to individuals within the group, use the plural verb.


- The fleet sails tomorrow at 04:30.

- The Seventh Fleet have three days to repair their vessels.

- Everyone applauds how hard the council works.

- The council are divided about the tax reform issue.

- When is the team going to play its next home game?

- The team need to recuperate from their injuries

7) Prepositional Phrases and Other Matters Set Off from the Subject

Prepositional phrases following subject or material set off from the subject by commas generally does not influence subject-verb agreement. To decide whether to use a singular or plural verb form, simply block out the prepositional phrase or additional material and look only at the subject and verb.


- None of the facts has been proven true. (None of the facts has)

- Any of these students writes well. (Any ‘one’ of these students writes)

- Many flowers, such as the tulip, grow in northern climates. (Many flowers, such as the tulip, grow)

- My house, unlike those houses, looks brand new. (My house, unlike those houses, looks)

NOTE: The exception to this rule occurs when the word all is followed by a singular or plural noun or pronoun. In this case, the prepositional phrase or material following all with determine whether to use a singular or plural verb.

- All of my apple pie was eaten. (Singular pie takes the singular verb was eaten.)

- All of my apple pies were eaten. (Plural pies take the plural verb were eaten.)