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The most important type of agreement in English is that of the subject and the predicate in number and person. Thus a singular noun-subject requires a singular verb-predicate, a plural noun-subject requires a plural verb-predicate.

This rule of purely grammatical agreement concerns all present tenses (except modal verbs) and also the past indefinite of the verb to be.

World literatureknows many great humorists.

Great humoristsknow how to make people laugh.

This rule remains true for:

a) All link verbs irrespective of the number of the predicative noun, as in:

Our only guidewas the Polar star. Our only guide was the stars.

b) The predicate of emphatic constructions with the formal subject it.

It was my friends who suddenly arrived. It’s they who are responsible for the delay.

The verb-predicate is in the singular if the subject is expressed by:

1. An infinitive phrase or phrases:

To know everythingis to know nothing.

To be loved and to be wantedis always good.

2. A prepositional phrase:

After the meetingis the time to speak.

3. A clause introduced by a conjunction or conjunctive adverb:

Where you found himdoes not concern me.

How you got there is beyond my understanding.

Note:Subject clauses introduced by conjunctive pronouns what, who may be followed by either a singular or plural verb.

What I want to do is to save us. What I say and what I think are my own affair.

4. A numerical expression, such as arithmetical addition, subtraction, division:

Four and fouris eight. Four minus twois two. Ten divided by fiveis two.

Note: However, multiplication admits two variants.

Twice two is/are four.

5. The group many a + noun:

Many a manhas done it. Ни один человек проделал такое. (Многие...)

6. With there - constructions followed by subjects of different number, the predicate agrees with the subject that stands first. The same holds true for sentences with here:

Therewas a textbook and many notebooks on the table.

Therewere many notebooks and textbook on the table.

Herewas Tom and Peter. Herewas a man, wasexperience and culture.

In informal style, however, the singular verb is often usedbefore the subject in the plural if the form of the verb is contracted.

There’s too many of them living up there. There’s two kinds of men here, you’ll find.

7. Plural nouns or phrases when they are used as names, titles, quotations:

“Fathers and Sons”is the most popular of Turgenev’s novels.

Note:However, the titles of some works which are collections of stories, etc., may have either a singular or a plural verb.

The “Canterbury Tales” consist of about seventeen thousand lines of verse.

Turgenev’s “Hunter’s Tales” was/were published in 1852.

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