A compound subject refers to a sentence element that consists of two or more subjects that are connected by a coordinating conjunction, such as “and” or “or.” It combines multiple individuals or entities who perform the same action or are being described in the same way, emphasizing their collective involvement or similarity. The compound subject allows for concise expression and highlights the shared characteristics or actions of the subjects within a sentence.
What is a compound subject?
A compound subject is formed when two or more subjects are connected by a conjunction to share the same verb in a sentence. It allows multiple noun phrases to join together and function as the subject of the sentence.
When multiple subjects are combined to form a compound subject, they share the predicate.
The cat sleeps + the dog sleeps = The cat and the dog sleep.
Two subjects (the cat + the dog) joined by and share the same verb (sleep).
Remember: ➡ When multiple subjects are combined to form a compound subject, they share the predicate.
- Mona and Manpreet are cooking dinner tonight.
- Two individuals (Mona + Manpreet) form a compound subject and share the action of cooking dinner.
- The sun and the moon illuminate the sky at different times.
- Computers and smartphones have revolutionized communication.
A compound subject can also be created using conjunctions other than and, such as ‘or and nor’.
- Lala and Lola will bring dessert to the party.
- Neither the cat nor the dog wants to go outside.
A compound subject may consist of only singular nouns, only plural nouns, or a combination of singular and plural nouns.
- The cat and the bird are playing together.
- Cats and dogs make popular pets.
- My sister and her friends are going on a road trip.
- A pen, a notebook, and a pencil are on the desk.
Usage of Pronouns in compound subjects
The use of pronouns in a compound subject follows grammar rules and considerations of formality and politeness. In formal writing, subject pronouns (I, he, she, they) are preferred in compound subjects, rather than object pronouns (me, him, her, them).
- Sheila and I (not
me) are attending the conference.
(Sheila is attending + I am attending = Sheila and I are attending).
- They and Mayra are planning a surprise party.
- They and we (not
us) are working on a new project.
Use of pronouns in Informal Sentences
In speech and informal writing, it is common to use object pronouns (me, him, her) even in the subject position when part of a compound subject.
Although acceptable informally, it is best to avoid this usage in formal texts.
Informal: Me and Tom went to the movies last night.
Informal: Him and the kids are coming over for dinner.
Sometimes, reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself), typically not used in the subject position, may be used for politeness. Although rare, this usage is not incorrect, especially in spoken language.
- You needn’t worry. Sarah and myself will handle it.
- Who are you? Myself Kamla.
Verb Agreement with compound subjects
When dealing with compound subjects, it is important to ensure subject-verb agreement, which means using the correct pronouns and verbs in a sentence.
1. Compound subjects joined by ‘and’ are generally considered plural and take plural verbs (e.g., are instead of is).
The cat and the dog are playing in the yard.
The subjects “the cat” and “the dog” are joined by “and,” forming a plural compound subject, which requires a plural verb.
- Mary, John, and Lily are going to the beach.
- Both the cat and the dog were sleeping peacefully.
- They and we have completed the project successfully.
2. Sometimes, when two nouns are joined by “and” and are considered as one concept or idea, the compound subject is treated as singular, even though it contains the conjunction “and.”
- Peanut butter and jelly is my favourite sandwich.
The compound subject “peanut butter and jelly” is seen as a single idea, so it is treated as singular with the verb “is.”
- Eggs and bread is all we take in breakfast daily.
Here, “eggs and bread” is seen as a combination or one concept, so it is treated as singular with the verb “is.”
3. Two or more singular nouns joined by “or,” “nor,” and, “as well as” take singular verbs.
- Either the dog or the cat is responsible for the mess.
- Neither the teacher nor the student wants to take a test today.
- My sister and my best friend is coming to the party. (here sister is best friend also, so, considered as one)
- Playing soccer as well as basketball requires skill and agility.
4. When one of the nouns is singular and the other is plural, the verb generally agrees with the noun closest to it.
- Either a car or the bicycles need to be repaired.
- Neither the fans nor the AC is working properly.
Remember to Avoid Common Mistakes:
It’s crucial to be cautious with compound subjects that are excessively long, comprising multiple noun phrases, as it can lead to incorrect verb usage. . By the time we reach the end of the sentence, they might have forgotten the initial subject.
Incorrect: One of the buildings in the city, along with several parks and a few shopping malls, has been renovated.
In this case, the writer mistakenly uses a singular verb “has” because the noun “one of the buildings” is closer to the verb. However, the compound subject consists of multiple noun phrases, making it plural.
Correct: One of the buildings in the city, along with several parks and a few shopping malls, have been renovated.
Poor Construction: The results of the research conducted in the laboratory located in the basement of the main building, as well as the data collected from the surveys distributed to the participants across various regions of the country, are being analysed to draw comprehensive conclusions.
Better Construction: The research results from the laboratory in the basement of the main building, combined with the survey data collected from participants across various regions of the country, are being analysed to draw comprehensive conclusions.
The better example is rephrased to simplify and streamline the compound subject. Unnecessary details are removed, making it easier for readers to grasp the main subject and follow the sentence smoothly.
Practice Exercises on Compound Subjects
Q.1 In each sentence, identify the subject(s) and determine the correct verb form that agrees with the subject(s). Choose the appropriate verb from the options provided.
- The dog and the cat _ (is/are) playing in the garden.
- My sister and I _ (is/are) going to the movies tonight.
- Tom, John, and Susan _ (plays/play) soccer every Sunday.
- The book, as well as the pen, _ (belongs/belong) to Sarah.
- Music and art _ (brings/bring) joy to people’s lives.
- Neither the cats nor the dog _ (likes/like) to be alone.
- The professor, along with the students, _ (is/are) attending the conference.
- My parents and my brother _ (is/are) coming to visit next week.
- b) are
- b) are
- b) play
- a) belongs
- b) bring
- b) like
- b) are
- b) are
Q.2 In each sentence, identify the subject(s) and determine the correct verb form that agrees with the subject(s). Choose the appropriate verb from the options provided.
- Neither the manager nor the employees _ (was/were) aware of the new policy changes.
- The committee, consisting of scientists and researchers, _ (has/have) concluded their study.
- Not only the books but also the laptop _ (is/are) missing from the library.
- The team, as well as their coach, _ (is/are) working hard to win the championship.
- Each of the students _ (has/have) submitted their assignments on time.
- The company, along with its subsidiaries, _ (is/are) expanding into international markets.
- My best friend and confidant _ (knows/know) all my secrets.
- The cake, as well as the cookies, _ (tastes/taste) delicious.
- The teacher, along with the students, _ (discuss/discusses) the novel in class.
- The committee, consisting of experts from various fields, _ (debate/debates) important issues.
- a) was
- b) have
- a) is
- a) is
- a) has
- b) are
- a) knows
- a) tastes
- a) discuss
- a) debate