Feeling conflicted about choosing a singular or plural verb for a tricky subject? Well, we all have been there. The subject-verb agreement may sometimes be confusing, even for native speakers. First, you should remember that it is the subject that determines the number of the verb. For example, look at this sentence:

All anyone wanted to talk about was the referees.

Here the subject is singular, so the plural “referees” is irrelevant to the main verb.

And the general rule is that singular subjects take singular verbs, and plural subjects take plural verbs. However, some cases defy this rule and some may even depend on the meaning you wish to convey. Below we compiled some puzzling examples we encountered in translations.

When referring to a specific sum of money, use singular verbs. Otherwise, use the plural.

Sixty Turkish lira is charged for entry.

Millions of dollars were expended on pointless initiatives.

 

Use singular verbs after “the number of x” and plural after “a number of x.”

The number of employees increases every year.

A number of organizations help make Turkey a leader in the citrus industry.

 

In “x percent of y” constructions, if y is a singular noun, it takes a singular verb. And if y is a plural noun, it takes a plural verb.

Forty-three percent of this population is male.

About 30 percent of Turkey’s oranges are produced in Antalya.

 

Collective nouns take singular verbs if members act as a group. However, if you want to refer to the individual members of the group, you can use a plural verb.

The Committee consists of at least five members.

The committee are undecided about the proposed degree program.

 

“Combined with,” “coupled with,” or “along with” do not create plural subjects. So, you should still use singular verbs.

The rising cost of steel, coupled with supply chain issues, plagues the construction industry.

Mustafa, along with Bülent, forms the backbone of the team’s defense.

 

You can check out The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn for more examples and helpful grammar tips.