Subject-Verb Agreement (Two)

Let’s conclude our lesson on the fundamentals of English subject-verb agreement. This part looks at how using “there” with a “to be” verb affects subject-verb agreement and several of the more common irregularities in usage that defy easy categorization.


There + Be

English uses there with a to be verb to convey the idea that something exists in a particular place. The subject comes after the verb in sentences that begin with there + be, followed by the place. (There + be + subject + expression of place.)


Singular Examples:

There is an ATM in the lobby.

There is a copier at the office.


Plural Examples:

There are three cans of soup in the pantry.

There are two soccer leagues in the United States.


Native English speakers routinely use the contraction there’s (there is) even when the subject is plural. While this is considered acceptable in casual speech, it is not actually grammatically correct. You should avoid using it in formal writing.


Informal (Grammatically Incorrect) Plural:

There’s a dozen eggs in the fridge.

There’s many things to do in Atlanta.


Formal (Grammatically Correct) Plural:

There are a dozen eggs in the fridge.

There are many things to do in Atlanta.



Like many aspects of English grammar, subject-verb agreement has its fair share of irregularities where the rules covered so far do not necessarily apply. Here are some of the more common ones.


Some proper nouns that end in s/es are singular. This type of noun represents a singular, collective entity (such as a country) and takes a singular verb despite ending in s/es. If you were to substitute a pronoun for one of these proper nouns, you would use the singular it:


Des Moines is the capital of Iowa.

Illinois is a state.

The United States has a population of approximately 318 million people.


News is always singular, despite ending in s:


The local news reports sensational stories.

My aunt just came out of surgery, and the news is good.


Fields of study, systems, and principles that end in ics take singular verbs:


Mathematics is difficult for him.

Statistics is difficult for him as well.

Gymnastics is her favorite sport.

Politics is a divisive subject.


Certain illnesses that end in s/es are singular. These include diabetes, measles, mumps, rabies, rickets, and shingles.


Shingles is sometimes a side effect of chicken pox.

Diabetes has two classifications: type 1 and type 2.


Expressions of time, money, and distance usually take singular verbs:


Four hours of sleep is not enough for most people.

Twenty dollars is her share of the bill.

Ten minus two equals eight.

Six times six is thirty-six.


English has a handful of plural nouns that do not end in s/es. People, police, cattle, and fish all require plural verbs despite not concluding with an s:


Those people live in Savannah.

The police have closed off the crime scene.

That farm’s cattle are allowed graze freely.

The fish are not biting today.


Some nouns of nationality can be either singular or plural depending on how they are used. Nouns ending in sh, ese, and ch are singular when they refer to a nation’s language and plural when they refer to a nation’s people:



English is a difficult language to learn.

Japanese has two alphabets.



The English play rugby.

The Japanese are very deferential to their elders.


Finally, English has a few adjectives that can be used as plural nouns when preceded by the. These adjectives do not take a final s/es when used as nouns and refer to people who possesses a particular quality. Adjectives that can function as plural verbs include: the blind, the elderly, the dead, the deaf, the disabled, the living, the poor, the rich, and the young.



The young have to care for the elderly.

The rich should help the poor.

The disabled sometimes face discrimination in the workplac