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8.6: Subject-Verb Agreement

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    36326
  • Subject-Verb Agreement

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    Subject-verb agreement is one of the most common errors that student writers make. Having a solid understanding of this concept is critical when making a good impression, and it will help ensure that your ideas are communicated clearly.

    Basic Agreement

    Agreement in speech and in writing refers to the proper grammatical match between words and phrases. Parts of sentences must agree, or correspond with other parts, in number, person, case, and gender.

    • Number. All parts must match in singular or plural forms.
    • Person. All parts must match in first person (I), second person (you), or third person (he, she, it, they) forms.
    • Case. All parts must match in subjective (I, you, he, she, it, they, we), objective (me, her, him, them, us), or possessive (my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, their, theirs, our, ours) forms.
    • Gender. All parts must match in male or female forms.
      Subject-verb agreement describes the proper match between subjects and verbs.

    Because subjects and verbs are either singular or plural, the subject of a sentence and the verb of a sentence must agree with each other in number. That is, a singular subject belongs with a singular verb form, and a plural subject belongs with a plural verb form.

    Regular Verbs

    Regular verbs follow a predictable pattern. For example, in the third person singular, regular verbs always end in -s. Other forms of regular verbs do not end in --s.

    Singular Form Plural Form

    Third Person

    He/She/It lives.

    They live.

    First Person

    I live.

    We live.

    Second Person

    You live.

    You live.

    In the singular form, the pronoun you refers to one person. In the plural form, the pronoun you refers to a group of people, such as a team.

    Many singular subjects can be made plural by adding an -s.

    Most regular verbs in the present tense end with an -s in the third person singular. This does not make the verbs plural.

    PastedImage_wvhsa7qr0giid6jezqcy9462tpfpbj8u001293088478.pngAdd an -es to the third person singular form of regular verbs that end in -sh,-x, -ch, and -s. (I wish/He wishes, I fix/She fixes, I watch/It watches, I kiss/He kisses.)

    Irregular Verbs

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    Not all verbs follow a predictable pattern. These verbs are called irregular verbs. Some of the most common irregular verbs are be, have, and do. Learn the forms of these verbs in the present tense to avoid errors in subject-verb agreement.

    Be

    Singular Plural

    First Person

    I am.

    We are.

    Second Person

    You are.

    You are.

    Third Person

    He/She/It is.

    They are.

    Have

    Singular Plural

    First Person

    I have.

    We have.

    Second Person

    You have.

    You have.

    Third Person

    He/She/It has.

    They have.

    Do

    Singular Plural

    First Person

    I do.

    We do.

    Second Person

    You do.

    You do.

    Third Person

    He/She/It does.

    They do.

    Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement

    Errors in subject-verb agreement may occur when:

    • a sentence contains a compound subject;
    • the subject of the sentence is separate from the verb;
    • the subject of the sentence is an indefinite pronoun, such as anyone or everyone;
    • the subject of the sentence is a collective noun, such as team or organization;
    • the subject appears after the verb.

    Recognizing the sources of common errors in subject-verb agreement will help you avoid these errors in your writing.


    This section covers the subject-verb agreement errors in more detail.

    Compound Subjects

    A compound subject is formed by two or more nouns and the coordinating conjunctions and, or, or nor.

    A compound subject can be made of singular subjects, plural subjects, or a combination of singular and plural subjects.

    • Compound subjects combined with and take a plural verb form.
    • Compound subjects combined with or and nor are treated separately.

    The verb must agree with the subject that is nearest to the verb.

    PastedImage_ipqujlc4ne7cl2hjg7169buvclznp0v6001293088478.pngIf you can substitute the word they for the compound subject, then the sentence takes the third person plural verb form.

    Intervening Phrases or Clauses

    As you read or write, you may come across a sentence that contains a phrase or clause that separates the subject from the verb. Often, prepositional phrases or dependent clauses add more information to the sentence and appear between the subject and the verb. However, the subject and the verb must still agree.

    If you have trouble finding the subject and verb, cross out or ignore the phrases and clauses that begin with prepositions or dependent words.

    PastedImage_ipqujlc4ne7cl2hjg7169buvclznp0v6001293088478.pngThe subject of a sentence will never be in a prepositional phrase or dependent clause.

    Indefinite Pronouns

    When an indefinite pronoun serves as the subject of a sentence, you will often use a singular verb form. However, keep in mind that exceptions arise.

    Some indefinite pronouns may require a plural verb form.

    To determine whether to use a singular or plural verb with an indefinite pronoun, consider the noun that the pronoun would refer to. If the noun is plural, then use a plural verb with the indefinite pronoun.

    Indefinite Pronouns that Always Take a Singular Verb

    anybody, anyone, anything
    each, everybody, everyone, everything all

    Examples:

    • All of the water has evaporated.
    • All of the apples are ripe.

    Indefinite Pronouns that Can Take a Singular or Plural Verb

    nobody, no one, none, nothing
    somebody, someone, something some

    Examples:

    • Some of the money was stolen.
    • Some of the books were stolen.

    Collective Nouns

    Because collective nouns are counted as one, they are singular and require a singular verb.

    Example: The class respects the teacher.

    The Subject Follows the Verb

    You may encounter sentences in which the subject comes after the verb instead of before the verb. To ensure proper subject-verb agreement, you must correctly identify the subject and the verb.

    Example: Somewhere deep in the woods reigns the king of the elves.

    In this example the verb (reigns) comes before the singular subject (king).

    Here or There

    In sentences that begin with here or there, the subject follows the verb. If you have trouble identifying the subject and the verb in sentences that start with here or there, it may help to reverse the order of the sentence so the subject comes first.

    Example: There were many athletes training in the gym.

    In this example the verb is were and the subject is athletes. (Note: training is not the verb of this sentence. training in the gym is a participial phrase. See Components of a Sentence.)

    Questions

    Many questions are formed with helping verbs whose form must agree in number with the subject:

    Example: Are you going to the party tonight? Answer: Yes, I am going to the party.

    The verb tense used in the question is present progressive (are going), and the subject (you) is placed after the helping verb are but before the present participle going.

    Example: Does your car run? Answer: Yes, my car runs.

    In this example, notice that the s ending for the singular subject (car) appears at the end of the helping verb does in the question. In the answer to the question, the -s ending is attached to the verb run, and the helping verb is not used.

    PastedImage_ipqujlc4ne7cl2hjg7169buvclznp0v6001293088478.pngIf you have trouble finding the subject and the verb in questions, try answering the question being asked.

    Exercise: Subject-Verb Agreement

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    Correct the errors in subject-verb agreement in the following sentences. If there are no errors in subject-verb agreement, write OK. Copy the corrected sentence or the letters OK on your own sheet of notebook paper.

    1. My dog and cats chases one another all the time.
    ________________________________________________________________
    2. The books in my library is the best I have ever read.
    ________________________________________________________________
    3. Everyone are going to the concert except me.
    ________________________________________________________________
    4. My family are moving to California.
    ________________________________________________________________
    5. Here is the lake I told you about.
    ________________________________________________________________
    6. There is the newspapers I was supposed to deliver.
    ________________________________________________________________
    7. Which room is bigger?
    ________________________________________________________________
    8. When are the movie going to start?
    ________________________________________________________________
    9. My sister and brother cleans up after themselves.
    ________________________________________________________________
    10. Some of the clothes is packed away in the attic.
    ________________________________________________________________

    Exercise: Correct the Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement

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    Correct the errors in subject-verb agreement in the following letter of application.

    Dear Hiring Manager,

    I feels that I am the ideal candidate for the receptionist position at your company. I has three years of experience as a receptionist in a company that is similar to yours.

    My phone skills and written communication is excellent. These skills, and others that I have learned on the job, helps me understand that every person in a company helps make the business a success.

    At my current job, the team always say that I am very helpful. Everyone appreciate when I go the extra mile to get the job done right.

    My current employer and coworkers feels that I am an asset to the team. I is efficient and organized. Is there any other details about me that you would like to know? If so, please contact me.

    Here are my resume. You can reach me by email or phone. I looks forward to speaking with you in person.

    Thanks,

    Jane Fellini

    Key Takeaways

    Subject-Verb Agreement

    • Parts of sentences must agree in number, person, case, and gender.
    • A verb must always agree with its subject in number. A singular subject requires a singular verb; a plural subject requires a plural verb.
    • Irregular verbs do not follow a predictable pattern in their singular and plural forms. Common irregular verbs are to be, to have, and to do.
    • A compound subject is formed when two or more nouns are joined by the words "and," "or," or "nor."
    • In some sentences, the subject and verb may be separated by a phrase or clause, but the verb must still agree with the subject.
    • Some indefinite pronouns may require a plural verb form.
    • Collective nouns require singular verbs.
    • In sentences that begin with here and there, the subject follows the verb.
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