Edit for Singular and Plural Usage

by My Web Writers

“Who’s on first? What’s on second? I Don’t Know’s on third.” Even if you’re too young to remember Abbott and Costello’s legendary humor routine, you know that the rules of singular and plural subject/verb agreement can baffle even the grammar greats among us.  Here are some pointers to help you get a handle on singular and plural usage:

A singular subject (such as “she”) takes a singular verb (such as “writes”). A plural subject (such as “they”) takes a plural verb (such as “write”). Keep in mind that nouns and verbs do not work the same as far as forming the plural is concerned. Adding an “s” to a noun often makes it plural, as in changing “car” to “cars.” However, adding an “s” to a verb, as in this case, does not make it plural. The plural form of the verb to write is “write,” as in “They write.”

Now, let’s tackle some of the more tricky elements. One is “either/or” and “neither/nor.” These terms are used with singular nouns, so they take a singular verb. For example, “Either of us is a good fit for the job” or “Neither Bella nor Jessica is wearing Uggs today.”

In addition, the terms “each,” “anyone,” “everyone” and “someone” are singular, not plural. They take a singular verb, as in “Each of us is taking the test today.” In contrast, the noun “all” is plural and takes a plural verb, as in “All of us are taking the test today.”

When two or more subjects are joined by the word and, use a plural verb. For example, “Jake and I are going to the senior prom together.”

One of the most common mistakes involves the word “I” when used as a subject or an object. As a subject, you would say, “She and I went to the mall.” However, when using yourself as the object of a verbal action, you would say, “Mom gave a piece of cake to her and me.” When in doubt, drop one of the objects and see which word fits. You would not say, “Mom gave a piece of cake to I.” You would say, “Mom gave a piece of cake to ME.” Therefore, “me” is correct as the object.




Filed under Grammar

2 responses to “Edit for Singular and Plural Usage

  1. Mj

    “Mom gave me a piece of cake.”
    “Mom gave her and me a piece of cake.” (In this sentence “her should be named as using the pronoun form creates confusion — who is “her”?)
    Isn’t that easier to understand?

    • You are correct that “her” needs to be named in this instance. Pronouns come into play once the identity to which that pronoun makes reference has already been established by the context of the dialogue. The example that you gave (“Mom gave her and me a piece of cake.”) would assume that more detailed information had been shared before this sentence. For example: “My friend and I were hungry when we came to my house after school. Mom gave her and me a piece of cake.” The “her” now makes sense because we understand, given the prior sentence, that “her” is referring to “my friend.” I hope that helps!

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