Subject-Verb Agreement in Term Papers: Why it Matters and How to Get It Right

As a copy editor, you may be familiar with the importance of subject-verb agreement. But did you know that this principle also applies to academic writing, specifically term papers? That`s right, a term paper that lacks proper subject-verb agreement could be detrimental to a student`s grade and overall academic credibility.

What is subject-verb agreement, and why does it matter?

Subject-verb agreement refers to the rule that a singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject requires a plural verb. The most common errors occur when the subject and verb are not in agreement in terms of number. For instance, “The book on the shelf is interesting,” is correct since the singular subject, “book,” matches with the singular verb, “is.” In contrast, an incorrect example would be, “The books on the shelf is interesting,” since the plural subject, “books,” does not agree with the singular verb, “is.”

Maintaining proper subject-verb agreement is essential in term papers for several reasons. Firstly, it ensures clarity and readability, which is crucial in academic writing. Incorrect subject-verb agreement can lead to misunderstandings, confusion, and a lack of credibility in the author`s arguments. Secondly, it demonstrates the writer`s understanding and command of the English language, which is essential in academic writing. A well-written term paper with proper subject-verb agreement shows that the writer is competent and knowledgeable in their field of study.

Tips for maintaining proper subject-verb agreement in term papers

Now that you understand the importance of subject-verb agreement in term papers let`s explore some practical tips for getting it right.

1. Identify the subject and verb

Before you begin writing, ensure that you understand the subject and verb agreement in each sentence. Identify the subject and verb and determine if they are in agreement in terms of number.

2. Be mindful of compound subjects

Compound subjects refer to two or more subjects in a sentence, and they require a plural verb. For instance, “The dog and the cat are playing in the yard.”

3. Watch out for indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns such as “everyone,” “anyone,” “no one,” etc., are singular and require a singular verb. For example, “Everyone is responsible for their actions.”

4. Pay attention to collective nouns

Collective nouns such as “team,” “family,” “group,” etc., may refer to multiple people, but they require a singular verb. For instance, “The team is practicing for the game.”

5. Avoid using “there” as a subject

Using “there” as a subject can lead to errors in subject-verb agreement. Instead, try to rephrase the sentence to identify the actual subject. For example, “There are two books on the shelf” could be revised to “Two books sit on the shelf.”


Proper subject-verb agreement is essential in academic writing, especially term papers. It ensures clarity, readability, and credibility in the writer`s arguments. By paying attention to the subject and verb agreement, avoiding common errors, and following the tips outlined above, students can produce well-written and grammatically-correct term papers that demonstrate their competence and knowledge in their field of study. As a copy editor, you can play a vital role in ensuring that the term papers you edit meet the standard of proper subject-verb agreement.