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Subject-Verb Agreement with Indefinite Pronouns: Examples and Tips for Clear Writing

One of the most common grammar mistakes made by writers is misusing indefinite pronouns in subject-verb agreement. Indefinite pronouns such as anyone, everyone, someone, nobody, and others can be tricky to match with the correct verb form. In this article, we will explore some examples of subject-verb agreement with indefinite pronouns and provide tips for clear, error-free writing.

Indefinite Pronouns and Verb Agreement: A Refresher

First, let`s review what we mean by indefinite pronouns. These are pronouns that refer to an unspecified person or thing. Here`s a list of some common indefinite pronouns:

– Anyone

– Everyone

– Someone

– Nobody

– Somebody

– Anybody

– Everybody

– No one

– Each

– Several

– Some

– Any

– All

– Most

– A few

– Many

– None

When using indefinite pronouns as the subject of a sentence, it`s important to match them with the appropriate verb form. Generally, singular indefinite pronouns such as anyone, someone, or no one should take singular verbs, while plural indefinite pronouns like all, many, or several require plural verbs. Here are some examples to illustrate the difference:

– Anyone can learn to play the guitar. (correct)

– Anyone can learn to play the guitar. (incorrect – using “can” instead of “can”)

– Everybody loves ice cream. (correct)

– Everybody love ice cream. (incorrect – using “love” instead of “loves”)

– Each of the students was late to class. (correct)

– Each of the students were late to class. (incorrect – using “were” instead of “was”)

Tips for Clear Writing with Indefinite Pronouns

To avoid errors with indefinite pronouns and verb agreement, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Identify the subject. Determine whether the indefinite pronoun is singular or plural, and match it with the corresponding verb form.

2. Use context clues. Sometimes the verb form will depend on the context of the sentence rather than the indefinite pronoun itself. For example, consider the following sentence:

– Each of the students were given a textbook.

Here, “each” is technically a singular indefinite pronoun, but the verb form “were” is appropriate because the sentence is referring to multiple students.

3. Watch out for tricky cases. Some indefinite pronouns, such as “none” and “any,” can be either singular or plural depending on the context. For example:

– None of the students was/were able to solve the problem.

– Any of the students who wants/want to participate should sign up.

In cases like these, choose the verb form that matches the intended meaning of the sentence.

4. Avoid awkward constructions. If using an indefinite pronoun as the subject of a sentence makes the sentence unnecessarily convoluted or awkward, consider rephrasing it. For example:

– Anyone who wants to join the club should sign up. (clear)

– The club has an open invitation for anyone who wants to join to sign up. (awkward)

By following these tips and being mindful of subject-verb agreement with indefinite pronouns, you can write clear and error-free sentences that convey your message effectively. Happy writing!