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Subject-Verb Agreement  
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Subject-Verb Agreement Exercise

 

Subject-verb agreement refers to the relationship between the subject and a verb in a clause.  Every clause, dependent or independent, has a subject and a verb, so in every clause the subject and verb must agree.  How must a verb agree with its subject?  A verb must agree with its subject in person and number

 

Most of the time you find agreement errors when something doesn't sound right.  If you need to check a subject and verb for agreement, follow these steps.

 

1.  Isolate the subject and verb.

 

        Andrea finds stamp collecting interesting.

 

        The subject is Andrea and the verb is finds.

 

 

2.  Replace the subject with the appropriate pronoun from the list of personal pronouns.

 

  

Person

Number: 

 

 

Singular

Plural

1

I

we

2

you

you

3

he, she, it

they

 

The subject Andrea would be replaced by she; that is, Andrea is third person

 singular, feminine.

 

 

3.  Conjugate the verb with the pronoun.  If the form sounds correct, it is correct.

 

 she finds  

 

We often make subject-verb agreement errors because the subject and verb are separated by other words or phrases like a prepositional phrase.  It's important, then, that you correctly identify the subject of a verb. Here's  an example.

 

My friend along with her aunt and uncle is going to Florida during the spring break.

 

Friend is the subject and is third person singular:  she -->she is going.

 

Along with her aunt and uncle is a prepositional phrase;  aunt and uncle, which are objects of the preposition, are not subjects. 

 

 

     Here are some special applications of subject-verb agreement.

 

 

inverted word order

certain conjunctions

collective nouns

special nouns ending in s

certain pronouns

relative pronouns

 

1.  Inverted word order

 

Sentences often have this kind of word order: SVO (subject verb object).

 

The child throws the ball.

 

 

When the sentence pattern changes, we sometimes make a subject-verb

agreement error.

 

There's too many problems with this approach.

 

 

This sentence has an inverted word order:  VS (verb subject).  A speaker or writer feels comfortable with the singular sound, especially because the verb is

 contracted. If we identify the subject and verb, we quickly see that the verb is

incorrect; it should be are.

 

There is too many problems with this approach.

 

 

          Problems is -->They is

               Corrected:   They are  -->Problems are

 

 

If we follow the procedure for checking subject-verb agreement, this error is easy to find and correct.

 

 

2.  Certain conjunctions

 

There is a subgroup of coordinating conjunctions called disjunctives.  These

conjunctions exclude one or more of the items joined.  Because they exclude

rather than include, follow this procedure when you use them to join the subjects of a verb.

 

 

A.  Here are the disjunctives.

 

or

either . . . or

neither . . . nor

 

B.  When you use a disjunctive to join the subjects of a verb, the subject closer to the verb controls the verb.

 

        Neither the sister nor her brother is going to the circus.

        (Brother is going.)

 

      Brother is closer to the verb, so it controls the verb.

 

       Does either the father or the mother have the report card?

       (The father does have)

 

      Father is closer the verb, so it controls the verb.

 

 

3.  Collective nouns

 

You have to be careful with nouns like family, faculty, team, crew.  Although these nouns are grammatically singular (Their plurals are families, faculties, teams, crews.), sometimes they should be treated as plurals.

 

    Incorrect:  The faculty is in the offices.

 

    Correct:  The faculty are in their offices.

 

 

If you're not certain about correct usage, use a paraphrase.

 

    Paraphrase:  The faculty members are in their offices.

 

 

4.  Special nouns ending in s

 

There are two groups of special nouns ending in s:  those that should be treated as singular nouns and those that should be treated as plural nouns.

 

A.  Nouns that should be treated as singulars:

      1.   nouns referring to an academic discipline, for example,

       linguistics, physics, mathematics

     2.   nouns ending in s but having a singular meaning, for example, newsmumps, measles, ethics

     3.  nouns that refer to a unit:

     Ten dollars is not a lot of money.

 

B.  Nouns that should be treated as plurals:

      1.  nouns that refer to items that were historically considered plural, for

      example, pants, scissors, and  trousers

      2.  nouns under which serval things are grouped, for example, sports,

       gymnastics, athletics

 

5.  Certain pronouns

 

A.  Each and every are always third person singular, so they require a singular verb.

 

 

        Each is responsible for part of the report.

 

 

When each or every is used as an adjective, whatever it modifies is third person singular.

 

        Each person is responsible for part of the report.

 

        Every student, teacher, and staff member was at the ground-breaking ceremony.

 

 

B.  When either and neither are used as  pronouns, they take a singular verb.

 

 

        Neither of the  children knows where the missing toy is.

         (Not one or the other child knows where the missing toy is.)

 

 

C.  Some and none are singular or plural according to their meaning in the sentence.

 

 

        Some of the cake was eaten.  (Some means some cake.)

       Some of the cakes were eaten.  (Some means some cakes.)

 

        None of the pie is missing.  (None means no pie.)

 

        None of the pies are missing.  (None means no pies.)

 

 

6.  Relative pronouns

 

When a relative pronoun is the subject of a verb you have to find what it stands for before you can determine its person and number.

 

        This is one of those books that keep you in suspense until the very end.

 

In the above sentence that is the subject of the verb keepThat stands for books, so that is third person plural (they keep).  Often the relative pronoun stands for the word immediately before it, so in many cases you can simply cross out the pronoun and match the word to the left of the pronoun with the verb:  books keep.  Be careful, though; this trick won't work if the pronoun doesn't stand for the word preceding it.

 

        There are several students who qualify for the honor roll.

 

        Eliminate who and match students with the verb qualify.

 

 

After you study the
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