Subject Verb Agreement for Compound Nouns

Subject-verb agreement is a crucial element of any writing style, and it becomes even more important when dealing with compound nouns. Compound nouns are created by combining two or more words to form a single noun. These can be hyphenated, closed or open depending on the context in which they are used.

In writing, it is essential to ensure that the subject and verb of a sentence agree in number, tense, and person. When dealing with compound nouns, this can be tricky, as the noun can be singular or plural, depending on how it is constructed. Here are some essential rules to keep in mind when dealing with compound nouns:

1. Singular Nouns

When a compound noun is singular, it is treated as a single entity, and the verb should be singular as well.


The bookcase in the living room needs dusting.

In this sentence, “bookcase” is a singular noun, and the verb “needs” is also singular.

2. Plural Nouns

When a compound noun is plural, it is treated as multiple entities, and the verb should be plural as well.


The brothers-in-law are coming to visit next week.

In this sentence, “brothers-in-law” is a plural noun, and the verb “are coming” is also plural.

3. Agreement with the head noun

In a compound noun, the head noun is the primary focus of the sentence and should determine the verb`s agreement.


The parent-teacher conference was informative.

In this sentence, “conference” is the head noun, and it is singular, so the verb “was” is also singular.

4. Agreement with the second noun

In compound nouns, the second noun can function as an adjective, and its number can determine the verb`s agreement.


The student council elections were a success.

In this sentence, “council” is singular, but “elections” is plural, and it determines the verb “were.”

5. Pluralization of compound nouns

When a compound noun consists of two or more words, and they are hyphenated or separated by a space, the pluralization rule is applied to the second part of the noun.


The mother-in-law`s house is always spotless.

If we want to make this sentence plural, we would change “mother-in-law” to “mothers-in-law” to indicate that it is plural.

In conclusion, subject-verb agreement is crucial to ensure that the message is conveyed effectively. When dealing with compound nouns in writing, it is essential to pay attention to the singular or plural form that the noun takes and adjust the verb accordingly. By following these rules, you can ensure that your writing is grammatically correct and shows that you have a good command of the English language.