agreement

agreement
1. Grammatical agreement (also called concord) is the correct relation to each other of different parts of a sentence, so that (for example) the form of the verb corresponds to its subject (The house was small, and its walls were painted white), and the gender and number (singular or plural) of a pronoun conforms to that of the person or thing it refers to (He had never been close enough to a girl to consider making her his wife). As English has lost many inflections over centuries of use, agreement is more closely restricted to particular aspects of sentence structure than it is in some other languages (e.g. German).
2. Lengthy sentences in which the verb is separated from its singular subject by intervening words in the plural can cause the speaker or writer to put the verb in the plural, but this is incorrect: The consequence of long periods of inactivity or situations in which patients cannot look after themselves ☒ are often quite severe and long-lasting. Here there are three options: change consequence to consequences, change are to is, or (probably best) recast the sentence more simply, e.g. Long periods of inactivity…can often have quite severe and long-lasting consequences.
In shorter sentences, the verb is also often forced out of agreement with its subject when a significant plural noun intervenes (note the mischief played by the word of here as elsewhere):

• ☒ Copyright of Vivienne's papers are in the keeping of the Haigh-Wood family —Literary Review, 1985

• ☒ The spread of nuclear weapons and technology are likely to make the true picture very different —Daedalus, 1991

• ☒ At least one in two churches are likely to be burgled next year —Times, 1992.

Care should be taken to ensure proper agreement in such cases.
3. Difficulties also occur when the form of the subject is not so obviously singular or plural, for example when it is a phrase (e.g. fish and chips / more than one), when it includes an indefinite such as each, every, any, or none, when it has a parenthetic addition whose grammatical status is unclear (e.g. My brother, together with a whole lot of his friends,…), when it is a single word of doubtful number (e.g. agenda or data), or when it is a collective noun (e.g. the government, a group of people).
4. two nouns joined by and.
These normally form a plural subject and require a plural verb: Speed and accuracy are what is needed / Fish and chips are served in the evening. But when the noun phrase is regarded as a singular unit, it can take a singular verb: Fish and chips is my favourite meal / Romeo and Juliet is showing at the local cinema. This can extend to concepts that are distinct in themselves but are regarded as a single item in a particular sentence: A certain cynicism and resignation comes along with the poverty of Italian comedy. The convention is very old, with evidence dating back to Old and Middle English. Clearly there will be borderline cases, and then it is what sounds natural that matters: The hurt and disbelief of parents' friends and families is/are already quite real / The extent and severity of drug use in the United States has/have been a shock to the medical director.
5. indefinite pronouns.
In many cases, these (each, either, every, everybody, neither, none, no one, etc.) govern a singular verb, but sometimes the context calls for a plural, especially when the sense is of collectiveness rather than individuality: (singular)

• Neither of these figures illuminates the case against Trident —David Steel, 1985

• None of her features is particularly striking —David Lodge, 1962

• (plural) Neither the government nor the tribunal, surely, want to bear responsibility —Daily Telegraph, 1987

• None of our fundamental problems have been solved —London Review of Books, 1987.

See also each, either, every, neither, none.
In the case of one of those who, the verb can be either singular or plural depending on whether one or those is regarded as the antecedent of who: (singular)

• Perhaps you were one of those fellows who sees tricks everywhere —Peter Carey, 1985

• I am one of those people who wants others to do what I think they should —Joan Bakewell, 1988

• (plural) Lily had…been one of those numerous people who are simply famous for being famous [note that numerous plays a part in emphasizing plurality] —Iris Murdoch, 1987

• That's one of those propositions that become harder to sustain the further they're explored —Kingsley Amis, 1988.

6. subjects with parenthetic addition.
Nouns joined by other linking words or quasi-coordinators (e.g. accompanied by, as well as, not to mention, together with, etc.) are followed by a singular verb if the first noun or noun phrase is singular, because the addition is not regarded as part of the grammatical subject: A very profitable company such as British Telecom, along with many other companies in the UK, is not prepared to pay a reasonable amount / Daddy had on the hairy tweed jacket with leather elbow patches which, together with his pipe, was his trade mark.
7. words like agenda and data.
These are plural in form but are usually singular in sense and govern a singular verb: in The agenda is on the table, the reference is to a single item. The process can be discerned more clearly in the older word news, which has long been construed as a singular noun despite its plural form: Is there any news?. See agenda, data.
8. collective nouns.
These are, by contrast, words such as committee, government, group, which are singular in form but often plural in sense. In BrE, the practice is well established of construing such words either with a singular verb (when unity or collectivity is being emphasized) or with a plural verb (when individuality or corporateness is being emphasized). Examples: (singular) Each succeeding generation of gallery visitors finds it easier to recognize Cubist subject-matter / A group of four young men, in denim overalls, was standing close to him / (plural) The jury retired at five minutes past five o'clock to consider their verdict / Let us hope that the Ministry of Defence are on your side this time. It is important to avoid a mixed style, as in ☒ The government has decided to postpone their decision.
In AmE it is customary for a singular verb to be used with collective nouns:

• The government routinely imposes differential taxes on hotels, bars…and the like —Bulletin of the American Academy, 1987.

But collective nouns of the type a + noun + of + plural noun can govern a singular or plural verb:

• A fleet of helicopters was flying low —New Yorker, 1986

• A handful of bathers were bobbing about in the waves —Philip Roth, 1987

• A rich and detailed picture of a world in which a multitude of elements were intertwined —New York Review of Books, 1989.

9. other plural forms treated as singular.
(1) Titles of books, plays, films, etc. (because the words ‘the book etc. known as…’ are implicit): Great Expectations is an account of development of identity / Star Wars has diverted some six billion dollars from the federal treasury.
(2) Names of illnesses (because the words ‘the illness known as…’ are implicit): Mumps often occurs in adults / Measles is normally a childhood disease.
10. clash of agreement.
Sometimes there is a clash of agreement within a sentence, for example when the speaker or writer wants to express neutrality of gender, where recourse to the plural is an old device:

• Everyone was in their shirt-sleeves —F. Tuohy, 1984

• No one in their senses wants to create instability —Denis Healey, 1985

• I really resent it when I call somebody who's not home and they don't have an answering machine —Chicago Tribune, 1988

• Each parent has a duty to do the best for their own child —Independent, 1996.

11. subject–complement agreement.
When a subject and a complement of different number are separated by the verb to be (or verbs such as become, seem, etc.), the verb should agree with the number of the subject: (singular) The only traffic is ox-carts and bicycles / The problem is the windows / The view it obscured was pipes, fire escapes, a sooty-walled well / (plural) The socials were a big deal to her / The house and garden were a powerful cauldron of heat and light / The March events in Poland were a natural stage in the evolution of communism. There are some exceptions, depending on the sense in particular cases: More nurses [i.e. the subject of more nurses] is the next item on the agenda.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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