Compound Subject, Singular Verb

That title sounds like a practice I would disagree with, but a compound subject with a singular verb can be correct! Here’s the rule:

  • A compound subject with “and” gets a plural verb.

Here’s an example of getting this wrong. _others” is plural, so the verb should be plural:

Our results provide new insights into how this subduction zone, and possibly others, behaves over geologic timeframes of millions of years.

Here’s the other rule: A compound subject with “or” takes the number of the last item in the subject. If the last item is plural, use a plural verb, if the last item is singular, then use a singular verb.

A correct example:

Anomalous propagation, or AP, is the name given to radar echoes that are not related to precipitation.

Here’s an incorrect example. “rhetoric” is singular, so the verb should be singular:

Administration officials push back on the idea that Trump or his rhetoric have any responsibility to bear, saying the only people responsible for these mass shootings are the people shooting the guns.

This is correct; plural second subject, plural verb.

I don’t think most schools or employers are there yet.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.