Writing Better: Singular Subjects

Some singular subjects are easy to recognize. For example, a singular count noun takes a singular simple present verb:

Car at a gas stationA car needs gas. PassportA passport is required to enter the U.S.

A non-count noun is also singular and takes a singular simple present verb:

A stack of dollar billsMoney is important. FoodFood gives us energy.

Here are some stranger things that also take a singular verb:

I: each & every

Each student speaks in class.

Every person is here.

Everyone knows the answer.

Everybody uses a cell phone.

Everything is finished.

II: most group nouns

My family doesn’t live with me.

The class is ready for the quiz.

The army demands hard work.

(Exception: The police patrol here regularly. “Police” takes a plural verb.)

III: Gerund subjects

Learning English takes effort.

In fact, gerund subjects take a singular verb even when the object of the gerund is plural!

Having many friends is fun.

Reading books makes you smarter.

Sometimes a singular subject is separated by another phrase or clause which can make you forget that the subject is singular.

A way to make a lot of friends is to invite people to do things with you.

The problem with living far away from your family and friends is loneliness.

Therefore, next time you edit a paper, make sure you find all of your singular subjects.