Multiple Subject and Verb Agreement

B. Ward Powers bwpowers at
Thu Oct 4 08:26:49 EDT 2001

Dear Harry, and all:

At 12:45 AM 011004 -0400, Harry W. Jones wrote:
>Dear Emil,
>A verb must agree with its subject in person(first,second,or third) and
>number(singular or plural). If a subject is singular then the verb must
>be singular. If the subject is first or third person then the verb must be
>first or third person. Etc,etc...The gender would have no bearing on this
>situation. More information on this can be obtained from GGBB starting at
>page 390.
>I hope this helps.

No, Harry, it doesn't really.

It is not true that the gender of the subject has no bearing on the 
situation. There are two exceptions to the normal rule you mention, in 
which a verb does not agree with its subject in number, and these are what 
Emil is asking about. The exceptions, not the normal rule.

The first exception is that a neuter plural subject regularly takes a 
singular verb. The second exception is that a multiple subject (like "Jesus 
and his disciples", or "Aquila and Priscilla") most usually has a singular 
verb, especially if that verb is nearest to the singular part of the 
multiple subject.

The GNT is full of uncountable examples of the first exception. Examples of 
the second exception also abound. Here are some:

"Jesus and his disciples", verb is nearest to "Jesus" (singular), and is 
singular: Mark 8:27; John 2:2; 3:22; "he and his whole household believed", 
verb nearest to the singular component of the subject, and is singular: 
John 4:53; similarly, Acts 16:31.

"so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together", both elements of 
the multiple subject singular, verb is singular: John 4:36.

"the chief priests and the scribes", both elements plural, verb plural: 
Mark 14:1.

In Acts 5:29 the multiple subject is "Peter and the apostles"; the 
participle APOKRIQEIS is closest to "Peter" (singular), and is singular; 
the main verb EIPAN is closest to "apostles" and is plural.

But note: "Priscilla and Aquila took him":  both elements of the multiple 
subject singular, and yet the verb is plural: Acts 18:26. An exception to 
the exception.

What Emil is asking is what happens when these two exceptive rules overlap. 
What would happen if you had a multiple subject comprising a neuter plural 
(which takes a singular verb) and a second plural element which was not 
neuter (and thus should take a plural verb)? Would the order in which these 
two elements of the subject occurred make any difference? Would it matter 
which element of the subject the verb was nearer? E.g., if you had the 
order Verb, Neuter Plural Subject, (conjunction) Masculine Plural Subject, 
would the verb then be singular because of the "influence" of the neuter 
plural component of the subject?

Then again, if the verb came after the second element, or alternatively, if 
the masculine plural came first and the neuter plural second, and then the 
verb, what difference would this make?

That is what Emil is asking. If you can tell him what the answer is, that 
would be helpful.



>Harry Jones
> > Dear all,
> >
> > I'm a new member to the list and a beginner in koine greek. I would like to
> > ask some simple questions. In a case of multiple subject, a verb would very
> > frequently agree in number with the closer subject element. I just want to
> > make sure that my understanding is right, especially concerning the general
> > rule of verb agreement with a neuter plural subject.
> >
> > If we have multiple subject:
> > 1. masculine plural and neuter plural - plural or singular verb? (noting
> > that neutral plural nouns usually have a singular verb as an agreement).
> > 2. neuter plural and masculine plural - plural or singular verb?
> >
> > Are differences in gender in a multiple subject influencing the use of verb
> > numbers?
> >
> > Thank you very much.
> >
> > sincerely,
> > Emil Salim
> > Jakarta, Indonesia

Rev Dr B. Ward Powers        Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street          Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM  NSW  2049      email: bwpowers at
AUSTRALIA.                         Director, Tyndale College

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