Subject-verb agreement


A colleague gave this explanation:

The choice of a plural or singular verb is determined by the form taken by the main subject of the sentence, which is not always necessarily the noun(s) closest to the verb in question. For instance, in the example you’ve provided the subject is whatever is being defined by “its/their”, and so a singular verb would be used with “its” and a plural with “their”. To provide a more practical example, with a sentence such as “The alloy’s microstructure and tensile strength was determined by…”, the singular verb “was” is used as it is the singular noun “alloy” that forms the main subject of this sentence (microstructure and tensile strength simply being singular characteristics of this subject”.


Is this correct?

subject-verb edited Jun 13 '14 at 03:11 Joyce F Contributor

1 answer


Actually, I think it depends on what you want to mean. 


If the alloy's microstructure is determined by something,

And if the tensile strength is also determined by that same thing, but independently,

Then the answer is "was".


If both of those characteristics are determined by the same thing and then change at the same time (proportional), I think you would rather use "were". It would be taken as a whole and the two wouldn't be considered as two singuliar parts, but one plural part.

link comment answered Jun 13 '14 at 14:26 Elijah Rakotoarivony New member

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