Let’s try another one:
Many have tried, but few people (has / have) been able to solve the puzzle.
This sentence contains two pronouns, “Many” (subject of the first clause) and “few” (subject of the second clause). Each of these pronouns is considered a plural pronoun, so each must have a plural verb have.
Subject-Verb Agreement: Compound Subjects
Sometimes, you will see a compound subject where one subject is a noun and the other is a pronoun. In these cases, the verb must agree in number with whichever subject is closer to it. Consider the following sentence:
Neither he nor his bodyguards (we / were) there.
Here, there are two subjects, “he” and “his bodyguards,” joined by the correlative conjunction “Neither…nor.” As covered in an earlier section of this chapter, the constructions “either… or” and “neither… nor” require the verb to agree with the subject that is closer to it. The verb must agree with the plural noun bodyguards, so the plural verb were is correct.
But what if the situation were reversed as in the following sentence?
Neither his bodyguards nor he (were / was) there.
Here, the singular pronoun “he” is closer to the verb, so the verb needs to be singular, too: “was.”
In both cases, the sentence is correct when the verb agrees with the subject – whether noun or pronoun – that is closest to it.