Subject Verb Agreement Relative Pronouns

Subject-verb agreement is a critical aspect of grammar that ensures that the subject and verb in a sentence are in agreement in terms of person and number. Being a copy editor who is experienced in search engine optimization (SEO), I understand the importance of this aspect in crafting high-quality content that ranks well on search engines. In particular, relative pronouns can pose a challenge in subject-verb agreement, and this article delves into these challenges and offers insights on how to navigate them.

What Are Relative Pronouns?

Relative pronouns are pronouns that introduce relative clauses, which are dependent clauses that modify nouns or noun phrases. They function to connect the clause to the rest of the sentence, typically by referring to a preceding noun or pronoun called the antecedent. Examples of relative pronouns include who, whom, whose, which, and that.

Challenges in Subject-Verb Agreement with Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns can present a challenge in subject-verb agreement because they can refer to nouns that differ in person and number from the verb in the main clause. For instance, consider the following sentence:

The students who is sitting at the back are always late.

In this sentence, the relative pronoun who refers to students, which is plural, and so the verb in the main clause should be plural as well. However, the verb is instead singular (is) and agrees with who, which is singular. This error in subject-verb agreement could compromise the clarity and credibility of the content and be detrimental to SEO efforts.

Tips for Navigating Subject-Verb Agreement with Relative Pronouns

To ensure that subject-verb agreement is maintained when using relative pronouns, the following tips can be helpful:

1. Identify the antecedent: Before using a relative pronoun, identify the noun it refers to and its person and number. This knowledge will guide you in selecting the appropriate verb that agrees with the antecedent.

2. Avoid confusion: Be careful not to confuse the relative pronoun with the antecedent. For example, in the sentence “The boy that won the race is my friend,” the relative pronoun that should refer to boy, which is singular, and so the verb should be singular. However, if the relative pronoun were which referring to race, which is non-count, then the verb would be plural.

3. Consider the placement of the relative clause: The relative clause could either be restrictive or nonrestrictive. A restrictive clause provides essential information that cannot be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence. A nonrestrictive clause, on the other hand, provides additional information that can be removed without affecting the sentence`s meaning. In restrictive clauses, that is preferred over which, and this can affect subject-verb agreement.


Relative pronouns can pose a challenge in maintaining subject-verb agreement in writing. However, by being mindful of tips such as identifying the antecedent, avoiding confusion, and considering the placement of the relative clause, copy editors can craft high-quality content that is not compromised by grammatical errors. This ensures that the content ranks well on search engines and is valuable to readers.