Subject-Verb Agreement Using ‘Each’

By Mary W. Ng

Subject-verb agreement errors are common in writing, and they reflect poorly on the writer.  If you do not want to make any such error, you must not only understand the mechanics of subject-verb agreement but also be aware of some special cases of subject-verb agreement.

Today I'd like to talk about two cases of subject-verb agreement, both involving the pronoun each.

Look at these two sentences:
    •    Each of you are a part of history.
    •    Each of you is a part of history.

Google shows 85 million results for the search term 'each of you are' and 13 million results for 'each of you is'.  So, who is correct, the majority or the minority?

Well, the subject is the pronoun phrase each of you; the simple subject is the pronoun each (meaning each one), which takes a singular verb.  In case you forgot or didn't know, the simple subject is the noun or pronoun that remains when the subject is stripped of other words.  The majority is not always right.

Now look at these two sentences:
    •    They each have something special.
    •    They each has something special.

Google reports 34 million results for the search term 'they each have' and 11 million results for 'they each has'.  So, who is correct this time, the majority or the minority?
Well, this time the majority is correct, but there is a reason for it.  The subject they is plural and takes a plural verb.  The pronoun each has no effect on the number of the subject; each functions as an appositive, giving additional information about the subject.

When you proofread your writing to check for subject-verb agreement errors, remember that the verb must agree with the subject or the simple subject.  In most cases, interrupting words, that is, words between the subject and the verb, are mere distractions.

Mary W. Ng is the author of two grammar e-books, Focus on Grammar: Subject-Verb Agreement and Focus on Grammar: Parallel Constructions.  Sample reads are available at www.aimpublishing.com.  The website also provides information on spelling rules of verbs, word usage and grammatical errors.

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