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Subject Verb Agreement in IELTS Grammar

Subject Verb Agreement in IELTS Grammar is very interesting, yesterday one of my students wrote :-

  • The graphs compares the use of telecommunication by English people in 2009 and 2019.

Do you notice the mistake here? It’s so clear, isn’t it? But, to many students being able to find the right subject and verb can be a challenge. Lets dive deep into the issue then. Hey wait! what is the mistake above?

  • The graphs(plural subject) compares(singular verb) compare(plural verb) the use of telecommunication by English people in 2009 and 2019.

Subject verb agreement simply means the subject and verb must agree in number. This means both need to be singular or both need to be plural.


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To make it easy let’s use the standard of underlining subjects once and verbs in bold.

books, house

looks, are

Shall we begin?

Rule 1:-

A singular subject (graph, map, figure) takes a singular verb (depicts, shows, represents), whereas a plural subject(graphs, maps, figures) takes a plural verb(depict, show, represent).


  1. The graph reaches its pinnacle …..
  2. The given maps compare and island before and after some development…..

Rule 2:-

This is another trap of subject-verb agreement that I see very often in task 2.

The verb in an or, either/or, or neither/nor sentence agrees with the noun or pronoun closest to it.

Neither the government nor the serving advocate goes by the rule…..
Neither the government nor the serving advocates go by the rule…..

Rule 3:-

The word of is the culprit in many, perhaps most, subject-verb mistakes.

A subject will come before a phrase beginning with of.

Incorrect: A collection of strict rules shape …..

Correct: A collection of strict rules shapes . . .


For those showing portion follow the subject after of

If the noun after of is singular, use a singular verb. If it is plural, use a plural verb.

A lot/ a third/some of the tree has disappeared.
A lot/ a third/some  of the treehave disappeared.

Rule 4:-

As a general rule, use a plural verb with two or more subjects when they are connected by and.

Example: car and a bike are my means of transportation.

But note these exceptions:

Breaking and entering is against the law. (same idea)

The creator and producer is arriving soon. (same person)

In those sentences, breaking and entering, creator and producer both refer to same person, animal, place, or thing.

Rule 5:-

Words joined to with, together with, in addition to, along with, as well as, besides, not, etc are parenthetical, and do not therefore affect the number of the verb. These words and phrases are not part of the subject. Ignore them and use a singular verb when the subject is singular otherwise plural.


The politician, along with the newsmen(ignore newsmen), is expected shortly.

The children, with their mother(ignore mother), were happy.

Rule 6:-

In sentences with inverted subjects, the true subject follows the verb.

There are seven clean plates in the dining room.
There is hair in my lasagna.
Over the rainbow flies bird.
How are the employees enjoying the new building?

Rule 7:-

Use a singular verb with distances, periods of time, sums of money, etc., when considered as a single unit.

Three miles is too far to walk.
Five years is the maximum sentence for that offense.
Ten dollars is a high price to pay.
Ten dollars (i.e., dollar bills) were scattered on the floor.


Rule 8:-

With collective nouns use singular verb when the collection is thought of as a whole; a plural verb when the noun represents the individual components

The committee is of one opinion.

The committee are of different opinion.

Rule 9:-

For a subject with sentence that express a wish or are contrary to fact, make it plural.

Example: If Joe were here, you’d be sorry.
I wish it were Sunday.

The sentence demonstrates the subjunctive mood, which is used to express things that are hypothetical, wishful, imaginary, or factually contradictory.

Note: The subjunctive mood is losing ground in spoken English but should still be used in formal speech and writing.

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