Concord as an aspect of grammar has been a problem to many people learning English as a Second Language. That is why many users of English commit errors in the areas of ‘concord’.
The reason is that its rules work in dynamics. Concord means the agreement between the parts of a sentence, especially the agreement between a subject and a verb.
For example, in ‘Ade go to school’, the subject Ade does not agree with the verb go because a singular verb must be used with a singular object, not a plural verb. So, the correct verb is goes.
Now, it should be ‘Ade goes to school’. The following approaches will end the confusion of subject – verb agreement in learning ‘concord’.
1. A singular subject must be used with a singular verb. For examples:
- He has gone abroad.
- The man writes every day.
- She is a little girl.
- It was a tall tree.
2. A plural subject must be used with a plural verb, that is, the verb here will not carry the final‘s’ if it is the main verb. For example:
- My special thanks are due to all my friends.
- They were struggling to escape.
- I speak English every day.
3. If the subject is plural in form but singular in meaning, it will then take a singular verb. For examples:
- The news is read by a lady.
- Mathematics is my best subject.
- Measles is a deadly disease.
- Politics has been described as a dirty game.
4. Two subjects compounded by ‘and’ to function as a plural must be used with a plural verb. For example:
- John and Samuel are my friends.
- The boy and the girl were brilliant.
- Sola and Gbade have got admission to a university.
5. In some cases, a compound subject may function as singular if we are talking about the same thing. If this occurs, it must be used with a singular verb. For example:
- Rice and beans is good for body.
- Lion and Jewel was written by Wole Soyinka.
- Onigedu and sons has been popularly known in Ibadan.
6. Whenever you have the subject containing … of + plural, the plural noun that is near to the verb will not be focused, the first noun will be focused and it will take a singular verb but if the first noun is plural, then it will take a plural verb. For example:
i. The Dean of students is here (one Dean).
The Deans of students are here (more than one Dean).
ii. The owner of the cars has said it (one person).
The owners of cars have said it (more than one person).
7. A compound subject with a correlative conjunction must be used with a verb that agrees in number with the noun which immediately precedes the verb. For example:
- Bola or Sola is here.
- Mr Adelakun or his students are busy in the library.
- Neither the woman nor the children were there.
- Neither the children nor the woman was there.
- It is not only the teacher, but also the students that have run away.
- It is not only the students, but also the teacher that has run away.
8. The number of a subject does not change when it is followed by the following linkers as well as, together with, accompanied by, in connection with, etc.; and it must be used with a singular verb. For example:
- The head teacher, as well as his pupils, is on the assembly ground.
- The president accompanied by his ministers was around.
- My father together with his friends has been given gifts.
9. Remember that indefinite pronouns are singular; therefore, they must be used with the singular verbs. For example:
- Every place was boisterous.
- Everybody has to be very careful.
- Nobody comes here.
- None is here
10. Length of time and amount of money are considered as a unit, denoting the singular subject. So, they must be used with the singular verbs. For example:
- Four weeks is enough to finish the work.
- Nine thousand naira has been stolen here.
- Five minutes was wasted doing nothing.
- Two years has added to your year.
11. Also, measurement of length, distance, weight or capacity is considered as a unit, and it must be used with a singular verb. For example:
- Two litres of petrol is not enough for my car.
- Thirty kilometres was a long journey.
- Two hundred metres is a long track.
12. Remember that ‘one or each …’ is used to bring out a particular thing, person, place or idea from a group, so it must be used with a singular verb. For example:
- One of the novels is interesting.
- One of the boys has been injured.
- One of the ladies dresses neatly.
- Each of the books costs N200.00.
- Each of the students has received his gift.
13. If “one of the … followed by the relative pronouns that, who or which, it must be used with a plural verb before welcoming a singular verb. For example:
- One of the teachers who flog Sola is in the staff room.
- One of the rooms which were damaged has been rebuilt.
- One of the students that have not paid their fees has been favoured.
14. Number of …” preceded by the article ‘a’ to become ‘a number of …’ implies ‘many’. Therefore, it must be used with a plural verb. For example:
- A number of people have died in an accident.
- A number of graduates nowadays are half-baked.
- A number of staff were disagreed on the issue.
15. However, ‘a number of …’ preceded by the article ‘the’ to become ‘the number of …’ implies the sum total which refers to a singular subject, and it must be used with a singular verb. For example:
- The number of death-rates this year has drastically reduced.
- The number of students in our school is many.
- The number of work was done.
16. A collective noun is capable of taking a singular verb if the speaker or writer means the group of the same class. For example:
- The committee has worked tirelessly for the uplift of this association.
- The team is ready to beat its opponent.
- The choir was invited to a wedding ceremony.
The committee, the team and the choir used above means the group of the same class. That is why they are used with the singular verbs.
17. In contrast, if the speaker/writer means the group of different classes, then the collective noun must be used with a plural verb. For example:
- The committee have worked tirelessly to uplift their association.
- The team are ready to beat their opponents.
- The choir were invited to a wedding ceremony.
In the case above, the committee, the team and the choir are used to mean the group of different classes, that is, more than one committee, team and choir.
18. You should know that ‘more than one’ should be followed by a singular verb. For example:
- More than one passenger dies in that fatal accident.
- More than one error was detected in the textbook.
- More than one house has been razed down by fire disaster.
19. Since the indefinite article ‘a’ can only admit a singular noun, ‘many a …’ must take a singular verb. For example:
- Many a private school is business-oriented.
- Many a church operates under the dictates of demons.
- Many a year has been spent on the project.
20. ‘It’ is used as a grammatical subject of an impersonal pronoun and it must be used with a singular verb irrespective of the number of the noun(s) or pronoun(s) that follows it. For example:
- It is Tobi that says so.
- It was they who took it.
21. The plural determiners like some, many, most, etc. are used with the plural verbs. For example:
- Some students are here.
- Most of the people have supported me.
- Many are called, but few are chosen.
22. If there is a compound subject in which the two units mean the same person or thing, the verb must be singular. For example:
- The Vice-Chancellor and the head of the university was around.
- The commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the Head of state has gone abroad.
- The Minister in charge and the pastor is in the office.
Quickly do the following exercises.
1. If the two boys _______ been bitten by the snake, they should be taken to the hospital.
(a) has (b) have (c) had(d) is
2. Ameh _______ to school nowadays.
(a) walk (b) walked (c) walking (d)walks
3. Neither Adamu nor Musa _______ at home when Idris arrived.
(a) was (b) were (c) are (d) is
4. One of the pupils _______ able to answer the question correctly.
(a) were (b) are (c) was (d) can
5. The new president and members of his cabinet _______ on a familiarisation tour of the corporations.
(a) are (b) are being (c) have being (d) was
6. The president, with members of his cabinet _______ visiting our establishment this afternoon.
(a) are (b) was (c) were (d) is
7. Neither Obi nor Jumoke _______ present at the meeting.
(a) was (b) were (c) have been (d) are
8. One of the robbers who snatched the car _______ been arrested by the police.
(a) have (b) was (c) is (d) has
9. The Commissioner for Education with his secretary _______ expected yesterday.
(a) are (b) was (c) were (d) is
10. One of the victims _______ rushed to the nearest hospital.
(a) was (b) have been (c) were (d) were being
11. The principal, with all the teachers and students _______.
(a) has arrived (b) were arriving (c) have arrived (d) were to arrive
12. Each of the players _______ to receive a gift of N10,000.00.
(a) are (b) were (c) is (d) have