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Getting compound subjects straight

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in Admins,Office Management

We all know that a singular subject takes a singular verb and a plural subject takes a plural verb, but what about a compound subject?

The first rule is that when the subjects are connected by “and,” together they make a plural subject, so the verb is plural.

The author and the editor are happy with the final version of the book.

The author and the editors are happy with the final version of the book.

There are some exceptions to this first rule. Sometimes the verb is singular even though the subjects are joined by “and.”

What if in the above example, the same person is both the author and the editor? Then the verb would be singular:

The author and editor is the only one happy with the final version of this lousy book.

But in cases like that, it may be better to reword the sentence to make it more clear:

Bob, who is both the author and the editor of this lousy book, is the only one happy with the final version.

Another exception is when together the subjects make something that is considered one unit and therefore a singular subject:

Peaches and cream is my favorite dessert.

Yet another exception is when singular subjects are joined by “and,” but there’s an “each” or “every” at the beginning. This makes the verb singular.

Each author and editor is happy with the final version of the book.

The second rule is that when the subjects are connected by “or” or “nor,” the verb needs to agree with the subject closest to it.

Neither the authors nor the editor is happy with the final version of the book.

Neither the author nor the editors are happy with the final version of the book.

It sounds better when both subjects are either singular or plural in this construction, but if you can’t avoid having one singular subject and one plural subject, the grammar is correct if the verb matches the subject closest to it.

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