what is concord? Subject-Verb Agreement (Rules and Examples)

what is concord?

The word concord is derived from the Latin for agreement. ‘concord’ in everyday speech, it means ‘agreement or harmony between people or groups’
In grammar, concord refers to the way that a word has a form appropriate to the number or gender of the noun or pronoun it relates to. For example, in ‘She hates it’, there is concord between the singular form of the verb and the singular pronoun ‘she’.

Some linguists use the terms concord and agreement interchangeably, although traditionally, concord is used about the proper relationship between adjectives and the nouns they modify, while agreement refers to the proper relationship between verbs and their subjects or objects.

There are many grammatical challenges that confront ESL learners on the issue of Concord and various questions arise on how to conform to the rules of grammaticality. Which type of subject goes with which type of verb? Is it possible to have a plural subject go with a singular verb? How does a plural verb look like? Does a collective noun take a singular or plural verb? If two entities refer to one and the same person, do we use a singular or plural verb?

Subject-Verb Concord

Subject-verb concord is when the subject of a sentence and the verb of a sentence agree i.e when they have the same number and person. Here, if the subject of the sentence is singular, the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural as well.

Rules of Subject-Verb Agreement

1. A singular subject requires a singular verb. Look at these examples:

  • The committee meets here every Thursday. (singular)
  • The crowd is getting angry. (singular)
  • The jury has finally reached a decision. (singular)
  • He does this regularly. (singular)
  • The girl loves to sing. (singular)
  • The list of items is on the desk. (singular)

2. A plural subject requires a plural verb. Examine these examples:

  • Basketballs roll across the floor.
  • These clothes are too small for me.
  • Dollar bills were scattered on the floor.

Meanwhile, some plural subjects call for singular verbs:

  • Fifty dollars is too much to pay for that dress.
  • Twenty seconds is all you get before I scream.

3. A compound singular subject takes plural verb as illustrated in the following sentences:

  • Sugar and flour are needed for the recipe.
  • Neither my dad nor my brothers know how to ski.
  • Pepperoni and cheese are great on a pizza.
  • Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional meal in Ireland. (popular usage)
  • The creator and producer is arriving soon. (both refer to the same person)

4. Compound plural subjects take plural verb as illustrated in the sentences below:

  • Dolphins and elephants are highly intelligent creatures.
  • Eating, sleeping, and reading are enjoyable activities.
  • Both men and women enjoy yoga.
  • Chocolate and strawberry are my two favourite flavours of ice cream.
  • Furniture and paper are two uses for wood.
  • Roses, gardenias, and jonquils bloom in Beatrice’s garden.

However, there are unusual cases to some of these patterns when it comes to the subject-verb agreement. Let us study some of these exclusions:

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Exclusion 1

When any of these words: with, along with, together with, as well as, in addition to, including, no less than, etc. joins a compound subject, the form of the verb is singular. That is, when we replace ‘and’ in Pattern 4 with any of the words listed above, the appropriate verb form is singular. See the following examples:

  • The man with his wife is here.
  • The boy together with his sister is attending the party.
  • The husband, as well as his wife, was arrested.
  • The goat in addition to the cow has disappeared.
  • The goalkeeper no less than the defenders is to blame for the goal.

Exclusion 2

When a compound subject joined by ‘and’ gives the impression of a unit or when the two singular subjects refer to the same person or thing, we use the singular verb as we have in the following:

  • Bread and butter is his favourite meal.
  • His wife and greatest admirer gives him sound counsel.
  • Paul’s friend and boss is very pleasant.
  • The President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces has arrived.
  • Rice and beans is good for lunch.

Exclusion 3

When we connect a compound subject (two or more singular subjects) with any of these words, or, either…or, neither…nor, not, but, not only, but also, we use the singular verb. Look at the following examples:

  • John or Joe is going to the farm.
  • Either John or Joe is to blame.
  • Neither the boy nor the girl has a good report.
  • Not the husband but the wife was given the award.
  • Not only the teacher but also the student likes the beautiful building.

But when one of the subjects joined by any of the above items (the correlatives) differ in number; in other words, if one is singular and the other one is plural, the verb agrees in number with the nearer noun or subject. This is the principle of proximity. See the following examples:

  • Neither the thieves nor their leader was arrested.
  • Neither the leader nor the thieves were arrested.
  • Not only the boy but his friends were present at the game.

Exclusion 4

A singular subject followed by a plural modifier requires a singular verb. Examples

  • The reaction of the students was unexpected.
  • The leader of the armed bandits is to be convicted today.
  • A list of the successful applicants is out already.

Subject-Verb Agreement: collective nouns

We often use singular nouns that refer to groups of people (for example: team, government, committee) as if they were plural. This is because we often think of the group as people, doing things that people do (eating, wanting, feeling etc). In such cases, we use a plural verb. (We also then need to make sure that other words agree – they instead of it, who instead of which.)

Singular:

  • The new company is the result of a merger.
  • An average family consists of four people.
  • The committeewhich was formed in 2012, is made up of four men and four women.
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Plural:

  • The committee have asked for sandwiches for lunch. They have to leave early.
  • My familywho do not see me often, have asked me home for Christmas.
  • The team hope to win next time.

However, persistence is important in the use of the accompanying pronoun referents such as it or them.

Exception

Collective nouns followed by ‘of’ and a plural noun in such phrases as a collection of paintings, a pride of lions, a flock of sheep, etc. take a singular verb in Standard English. Examples include:

  • A flock of lamb is in the garden.
  • A collection of paintings is up for auction tomorrow.
  • Do you know that a case of tools has gone missing from the hospital?
  • A host of angelic voices sings regularly in the concert.
  • A swarm of bees is difficult to control.

Similarly the phrase ‘one of’ plus a plural noun such as teachers, babies, children, carpenters, etc. takes a singular verb. Examples include:

  • One of the instructors likes rice and beans.
  • You can call him that one of the girls is here.
  • One of the children does not like biscuits.

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns such as each, every, everybody, anyone, nobody, no one, none, etc. take a singular verb.

Examples:

  • Somebody ate my sandwich!
  • Everyone says she is beautiful inside and out.
  • No one wants to hear about my health problems.
  • Either choice has its advantages.

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary (or Helping) verbs are used together with a main verb to show the verb’s tense or to form a negative or question. The most common auxiliary verbs are have, be, and do.

  • Does Sam write all his own reports?
  • The secretaries haven’t written all the letters yet.
  • Terry is writing an e-mail to a client at the moment.

Numerals or Plural Numbers

Plural numbers take a singular verb when we use them in a phrase to indicate a sum or a unit.

Examples include:

  • Four years is the tenure of the president.
  • Five million naira is a great deal of money to carry around.
  • eight percent is good interest.
  • Forty hours is the normal work week in Nigeria.
  • Fifteen minutes is enough for a coffee break.

Conventional Plural Words

Some nouns which are plural in form but singular in meaning take a singular verb. Examples of such words include: news, measles, mumps, calculus, rickets, billiards, molasses, dizziness, semantics, trousers, scissors, etc.

Consider the following sentences in which we have such manifestations:

  • No news is good news.
  • Phonetics is an interesting subject.
  • His whereabouts is a secret.
  • Statistics is not my favorite subject.
  • Mathematics is a technical subject.

Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun must agree in number, gender, and case with its antecedent. What this statement means is that:

  1. A pronoun replacing a noun must agree in number as the noun it replaces.
  1. A pronoun replacing a noun must be masculine if the noun is masculine; feminine if the noun is feminine and neuter if the noun is neuter.
  1. A subject pronoun replaces a subject noun while an objective pronoun replaces a noun in the objective case too.
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Let us expatiate on the positions above with illustrative examples:

With number:

  • The teacher told the girl to write her
  • The judges delivered their judgment this morning.
  • The man stood his ground even though he was wrong.

With gender:

  • The lady sang so well that the audience gave her a standing ovation.
  • My father is so strict that we did not dare to disobey him.
  • When an old woman speaks, we should listen to her.
  • The economy is not so buoyant, it needs urgent attention.

With case:

  • The boys arrived last night, they did not come with their
  • John called the girlhe asked her to stay at home.
  • The lady works in Lagos, she comes to Ondo every weekend.

Shifts in Construction

Apart from drowning yourself in what is Concord, you also need to know that there must be no shifts at all in your grammatical constructions, especially when you are expressing a single idea.

In other words, what I am saying is that your sentences must be the same in person, number, voice, and tense; that is, there must be agreement or concord in your sentences in terms of person, number, voice, and tense.

Do not shift from one person to the other

Look at the following:

  • *When you are confused, one doesn’t know what to do. (Incorrect)
  • When you are confused, you don’t know what to do. (Correct)
  •  We love the harvest months because we have a lot to eat. (Correct)
  • *They love the harvest months because we have a lot to eat. (Incorrect)
  • *For one to pass that course, I must study diligently. (Incorrect)
  • For me to pass that course, I must study diligently. (Correct)

 Do not shift from one voice to another

See the following:

  • *They praised the girl, but the boy was punished.
  • *The course leader rushed into the classroom, looked around and was seated.
  • *The driver was arrested but they released the passengers.

See correct way to render these sentences:

  • They praised the girl but punished the boy. (Active voice)
  • The course leader rushed into the classroom, looked around and sat. (Active voice)
  • The driver was arrested but the passengers were released. (Passive voice)

Do not shift from one tense to another

See the following constructions:

  • *He pressed the doorbell but there is no answer.
  • *The man gave the girl some money, but she does not thank him.

The correct forms of these sentences are:

  •  He pressed the doorbell but there was no answer.
  • The man gave the girl some money, but she did not thank him.

I hope you find this post on what is concord? enlightening. enjoy and share…

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