Agreement: Money, Time, and Measurements

May 21, 2021

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.

Singular
(How much?, how big?, how small?, how long?)
Plural
(How many?)
MoneyFifteen 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.
TimeTen 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.
MeasurementsFive 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 itthis, 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 itthis, 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 itthis, or that wouldn’t make sense.

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