Subject Verb and Pronoun Agreement
All parts of a sentence should agree. Generally, if the subject is singular, the verb should be singular, and if a pronoun refers back to that singular subject, it should be singular in form, too. We use the word antecedent to describe the noun that the pronoun represents. Similarly, if the subject is plural, the verb should be plural, and any pronoun referring back to the antecedent should be plural.
Hongzia + drives + her car to school.
(singular feminine subject & antecedent) + (singular verb) + (singular feminine pronoun)
Silvio and Anastasiia + drive + their cars to school.
(plural masculine & feminine subject & antecedent) + (plural verb) + (plural nonbinary pronoun)
Durand + drives + their cars to school.
(singular nonbinary subject & antecedent) (singular verb) (singular nonbinary pronoun)
Remember that nouns and their respective pronouns must agree in person (I/me, you, they/she/he), number (singular or plural), and gender (nonbinary, feminine, masculine, or nonhuman: they, she, he, it).
The following words are considered singular and take a singular verb and pronoun:
- “ONE” words: one, anyone, someone, everyone
- “BODY” words: nobody, anybody, somebody, everybody
- MISCELLANEOUS: neither, either, each
One of my friends serves as a representative for her dormitory floor.
Either of the boys makes a good choice because of his dependability.
Each of the students has responsibility for their own work.
Everyone at work is expected to take their lunch when scheduled.
Nobody wants to take on cleaning the basement as their spring project.
How to Gender Indefinite Pronouns
You may struggle with pronoun choice in sentences using words like anyone, everyone, each, etc. If these words are singular in meaning and the pronoun referring back to them has to be singular, using the feminine her or the masculine him may insult some people.
- If singular usage is most appropriate to your purpose and if the sentence does not call for one particular gender reference, use the singular they or them.
- If preferred, change the complete sentence—subject, verb, and pronoun—to the plural versions so that the pronouns they or them can be used.
Group Words and Singular or Plural Verbs
The following collective or group words take a singular verb and singular pronoun if you are thinking of the group as a unit or whole but take a plural verb and plural pronoun if you are thinking of the individuals in the group:
audience, band, choir, class,
committee, corporation, crowd,
dozen, family, flock, group, heap,
herd, jury, lot, number, public, team
- The team was ready to play its game.
- The team were all suited up for their pictures.
- My family is behind me with all its support.
- My family are all scattered, as you can see by their addresses.
Note the use of subject, verb, and pronoun agreement in the following special sentence constructions:
- Constructions like prepositional phrases that come between a subject, verb, and its
antecedent do not change the agreement of these sentence elements.
- My father, as well as his two friends, enjoys his walks around the neighborhood.
- The chairperson, along with the board members, believes that their position is right.
- When subjects are joined by either . . . or, neither . . . nor, or not only . . . but also, the verb and the pronoun agree with the subject closer to them.
- During class, not only the teacher but also the students share their ideas.
- During class, not only the students but also the teacher shares her ideas.
- When the subjects of a sentence are preceded by each or every, both the verb and the pronoun should be singular.
- Each college and university has its own special requirements for admission.