Answered By: Rachel Willard
Last Updated: May 08, 2017     Views: 21346

The word agreement when referring to a grammatical rule means that the words a writer uses need to align in number and in gender (when applicable). View more details on the two main types of agreement below: Subject-verb agreement and noun-pronoun agreement.


Subject and verb agreement: Number alignment

When you use a singular subject of the sentence, the verb that you use must also be singular. These should always agree with one another.

        Example: The conclusion shows that variables X and Y are related.

        Incorrect: The conclusion show that variables X and Y are related.

Here the subject is conclusion, and the verb is shows.  Because conclusion is singular (there is only one), the verb should also be singular.

If the verb were plural, it would refer to more than one subject. Here’s an example of where that plural verb would work:

        Example: The results show that variables X and Y are related.

        Incorrect: The results shows that variables X and Y are related.

Notice here that the subject is results, and the verb is show. Because you are referring to more than one singular result (it is plural), the verb should also be plural. Here, the verb shows (singular) loses its s to become show (plural).

Hint to remember: Singular verbs usually have s's. 


Noun and pronoun agreement: Number and gender alignment

When you use a singular word and you want to replace it with another word, specifically a pronoun, be sure that the two words agree both in number and in gender.

        Example: The man walked to his car.

        Incorrect number: The man walked to their car.

        Incorrect gender: The man walked to its car.

When referring to groups or general nouns, you will want to pay close attention to the number and gender agreement, especially with words such as a student, each one, a client, the organization, the team, the group, etc.

        Example: Each student needs to bring his or her own lunch.

        Incorrect: Each student needs to bring their own lunch.

Because you have each student, which is referring to each individual and singular person, you will need to use a replacement word that is singular and incorporates both genders. Because the English language does not have one word that fills both of these roles, you will want to use the phrase his or her.

        Example: Upper management refers to its policies frequently in the handbook.

        Incorrect: Upper management refers to their policies frequently in the handbook.

Because this is a group word, you will want to use a word to replace the group as a whole. It is a singular entity, one group, and it does not have a gender, so you’ll want to use the singular, nongendered word it.


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