Agreement: Money, Time, and Measurements
Money, time, and measurements can be plural or singular. If the focus of your sentence is a total amount, use a singular verb. If the focus of your sentence is on multiple units, use a plural verb.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether to use a singular or plural verb, but there’s an easy way to figure it out—just think about your sentence as the answer to a question. If to get your answer you can ask questions like how much? how big? how small? or how long?, use a singular verb. These questions suggest a total amount.
If you can ask the question how many?, use a plural verb. This question suggests multiple units.
Take a look at the chart below to see some examples.
(How much?, how big?, how small?, how long?)
|Money||Fifteen dollars is the cost of the cake.How much does the cake cost? A total of fifteen dollars. Your focus is on a total dollar amount.||There are only two dollars in my wallet.How many dollars are in the wallet? Two of them. Your focus is on multiple dollar bills.|
|Millions of dollars is what it will cost to renovate the library.How much will it cost? Millions of dollars.||Millions of dollars were spent to renovate the library.How many dollars were spent? Millions of them.|
|Time||Ten hours is how much time we’ll need to complete this project.How much time will they need? (Or how long will they need?) A total of ten hours.||Ten hours were spent on this project.How many hours did they spend? Ten of them.|
|Measurements||Five hundred square feet is a very small space to live in.How big is the space? A total of five hundred square feet.||Five hundred square feet have been added on to the house.How many square feet have been added? Five hundred of them.|
You may still be a little confused, and that’s OK. This is a difficult topic! Just remember to always consider the main focus of your sentence. Are you talking about a total amount or multiple units? And if you’re not sure, asking questions like how much? and how many? will help you figure it out. Hint: If you can replace the time, measurement, or dollar amount with a singular pronoun (it, this, that), use a singular verb. If the sentence doesn’t make sense when you substitute a singular pronoun, use a plural verb.
|Singular (Total Amount)||Plural (Multiple Units)|
|Fifteen dollars is the cost of the cake.|
That is the cost of the cake.
|There are only two dollars in my wallet.Replacing two dollars with it, this, or that wouldn’t make sense, so you know that the verb has to be plural.|
|Ten hours is how much time we’ll need to complete the project.|
This is how much time we’ll need to complete the project.
|Ten hours were spent on this project.Replacing ten hours with it, this, or that wouldn’t make sense.|
|Five hundred square feet is a very small space to live in.|
It is a very small space to live in.
|Five hundred square feet have been added on to the house.Replacing five hundred square feet with it, this, or that wouldn’t make sense.|