Subject/Verb Agreement for Sentences with Prepositional Phrases

Q: Which is correct: Each one of us “were” or “was” chewing on some sort of candy the day after Halloween. Is it “were” because it’s so close to us? Or is it “was” because the subject (each one) is singular? –Karen S.

A: It’s “was.” The verb must always agree with the subject. The trick is to remove the prepositional phrase “of us” and then read the sentence. That will help you choose the correct verb.

Each one was chewing the gum.

The only exception to this rule is when dealing with the subjunctive mood (which I covered in this blog post). The word “subjunctive” makes this exception sound complicated, but it really isn’t. And if the exception doesn’t apply, stick with the proper subject/verb agreement mentioned above.

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One thought on “Subject/Verb Agreement for Sentences with Prepositional Phrases

  1. Renee CK

    I would argue that the sentence needs to be edited; "each one" is completely needless in this sentence. The simple sentence is "Each of us *were* chewing." (Each one was chewing the gum would also be correct but does not sound right to my ear.)

    My 2 cents.