Subject Verb Agreement Rule No.14 – Indefinite Pronouns
As a copy editor, one of the essential grammar rules that I always emphasize is the subject-verb agreement. It is one of the fundamental principles that every writer should master to deliver clear and effective communication through their writing. In this article, we will discuss the fourteenth rule of subject-verb agreement, which pertains to indefinite pronouns.
Indefinite pronouns are words that refer to an unspecified person, thing, or amount. These pronouns include words like anyone, someone, nobody, everybody, each, every, either, neither, some, any, and none. Since these pronouns do not refer to a specific number, it is often difficult to apply the subject-verb agreement rule correctly.
The rule states that singular indefinite pronouns require a singular verb, while plural indefinite pronouns require a plural verb. This may seem straightforward, but some indefinite pronouns can be plural or singular, depending on how they are used in the sentence.
For instance, the indefinite pronoun “everybody” is always singular, even though it refers to a group of people. Therefore, the correct sentence construction would be “Everybody is going to the party tonight,” not “Everybody are going to the party tonight.”
On the other hand, the indefinite pronoun “some” can be singular or plural, depending on the context of the sentence. If used to refer to a single entity, then it is singular, and the verb should also be singular. For example, “Somebody is playing the piano.” If used to refer to more than one entity, then it is plural, and the verb should also be plural. For example, “Some people are playing the piano.”
Another challenge with indefinite pronouns is that some of them are gender-neutral, making it difficult to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. In these cases, you can use the plural form of the verb to avoid confusion. For example, “Everyone has their own preference,” instead of “Everyone has his or her own preference.”
In conclusion, understanding the subject-verb agreement rule is vital in ensuring that your writing is clear, effective, and grammatically sound. When dealing with indefinite pronouns, always remember that singular indefinite pronouns require a singular verb, while plural indefinite pronouns require a plural verb. Be mindful of the context of the sentence, as some indefinite pronouns can be singular or plural, and use the plural form of the verb when dealing with gender-neutral indefinite pronouns. With this knowledge, you can confidently write grammatically correct sentences that convey your message accurately.