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Friday, July 8, 2016 What is Subject-Verb Agreement?

In essence, subject-verb agreement is making sure that your subject and your verb are either both plural or both singular. This is could be something that you’ve lost points for in your papers because it can seem right to write anything that sounds normal when you say it. For example, if you talk about someone and how they just had a vacation, that’s actually incorrect! That’s because “someone” is singular and “they” is plural. It may sound alright, but it is definitely wrong grammatically.

Now that you know what subject-verb agreement is, let’s work on finding it in your paper. There are only three simple steps!

  1. Look at each sentence for your subject, which is the thing that you’re talking about, and find out if it is singular or plural. If it is one item or an uncountable noun (words like "food" or "air" that you wouldn't add an "s" to), it is singular.
  2. Search in each sentence for the verb and figure out whether it is a plural or singular verb. If the verb could apply to many things (carry, eat), then it is plural. The singular versions of those verbs are "carries" and "eats." 
  3. Make sure that the subject matches the verb! If there is a singular verb (runs, eats, teaches, roasts), make sure that there is a singular noun to go with it (person, mouse, mother, chef). Likewise, if there is a plural verb, use a plural noun. Some people can just "hear" which is correct, but you might need to study verb forms a little to get the hang of it. 

So for example, in the sentence “The teacher, in addition to his students, are nervous about the exam,” “teacher” is the subject and “are” is the verb. Get rid of all the other words in the sentence and just say the subject followed by the verb. You should notice that there is incorrect subject-verb agreement. You want to say, "A teacher is," not "a teacher are." 

Thus, the correct sentence should say, “The teacher, in addition to his students, is nervous about the exam.” To correct these issues, you can change either a plural noun or verb to be singular, or a singular noun or verb to be plural.

NOTE: There are some situations that are a little more difficult to understand, especially when it comes to discussing two subjects in a sentence.

  • When two subjects are combined by “and,” use a plural verb.
    • "The delicious sandwiches and disgusting sandwiches are in the picnic basket."
  • Also, when two singular subjects are combined by “or,” use a singular verb.
    • "The delicious sandwich or the disgusting sandwich is in the fridge."

For even trickier subject-verb agreement problems, check out OWL Purdue

Posted at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)
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