by Vivian Zabel
Since I was dealing with a husband who is very ill and in the hospital, I missed posting my next writing tips article this past Wednesday. Therefore, I'll leave it up Sunday and Monday.
Using correct grammar improves writing, allowing the reader to understand better what the writer means.
When subjects and verbs cannot and do not agree, the resulting battle creates an incorrect sentence. More and more this problem appears not only in speech but also in writing. However, learning how to make subjects and verbs agree isn’t very hard. First one needs to recognize the problem areas and then correct the error.
A verb must agree in number with its subject: A singular subject requires a singular verb; a plural subject requires a plural verb. Let’s examine some rules of subject-verb agreement, instances of incorrect usage, and how to repair the problem.
1. If a group of words including one or more nouns, such as an object of a prepositional phrase, comes between a subject and verb, be sure the verb agrees with the subject, not one or more nouns in the group of words or prepositional phrase. A subject separated from its verb still must agree with the verb.
Error: According to Mary Ellen, the boys on the team arrives late every day.
Correct: According to Mary Ellen, the boys on the team arrive late every day.
Error: The sea otter as well as the sea lion inhabit the waters of Alaska.
Correct: The sea otter as well as the sea lion inhabits the waters of Alaska.
2. Singular subjects joined by and should have a plural verb under most circumstances.
If the parts of the subject refer to more than one thing, use a plural verb.
Error: Oklahoma City and Tulsa is the largest cities in the state.
Correct: Oklahoma City and Tulsa are the largest cities in the state.
If the parts of the subject refer to the same thing, use a singular verb.
Error: The capital and largest city are Oklahoma City.
Correct: The capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.
3. When a compound subject is joined by or, either-or, nor, or neither-nor, the verb agrees in number to the subject closest to it.
Error: Either hyperbole or personification are used in each poem.
Correct: Either hyperbole or personification is used in each poem.
Error: Mary or Terry are next.
Correct: Mary or Terry is next.
4. A compound subject preceded by many a, every, a number, the number or each requires a singular verb.
Error: Each man and woman enjoy a delicious meal.
Correct: Each man and woman enjoys a delicious meal.
5. A verb agrees with the subject rather than a subject complement/ predicate nominative.
Error: The books on the table is the package that arrived today.
Correct: The books on the table are the packages that arrived today.
6. Make sure the verb agrees with its subject even if another word or phrase begins the sentence and/or the subject follows the verb (inverted order).
Error: There is several reasons for the test results.
Correct: There are several reasons for the test results.
Error: On much of the Alaskan landmass lives many animals.
Correct: On much of the Alaskan landmass live many animals.
7. A singular subject that ends in s requires a singular verb.
Error: The television series Da Vinci’s Inquest take place in Canada.
Correct: The television series Da Vinci’s Inquest takes place in Canada.
8. A singular verb is needed for the title of a work as the subject.
Error: The Princess Diaries tell the story of a young woman who discovers she is a princess.
Correct: The Princess Diaries tells the story of a young woman who discovers she is a princess.
9. A noun naming an amount that is used as a subject takes a singular verb.
Error: Six months of darkness make winter difficult in the far north.
Correct: Six months of darkness makes winter difficult in the far north.
10. Collective nouns may be singular or plural as used.
If the subject is considered as a whole group, a singular verb is required.
Error: A group of Native Americans, the Cherokee, live in northeast Oklahoma.
Correct: A group of Native Americans, the Cherokee, lives in northeast Oklahoma.
If the subject refers to each individual in the group, a plural verb is needed.
Error: The group offers different opinions as to how to spend the money.
Correct: The group offer different opinions as to how to spend the money.
11. Indefinite pronouns take a singular or plural verbs under different circumstances.
If the indefinite pronoun is singular, a singular verb is needed.
Error: Each of the girls take art.
Correct: Each of the girls takes art.
If the pronoun could be either singular or plural but refers to a singular noun, a singular verb is needed.
Error: Some of the catch are bass.
Correct: Some of the catch is bass.
If the pronoun, which could be either singular or plural, refers to a plural noun, a plural verb is required.
Error: Some of the parts is sold at discount stores.
Correct Some of the parts are sold at discount stores.
Keeping a few guidelines at hand can help writers remember how to make those subjects and verbs agree. Then writing becomes more peaceful and smooth.
Author of mystery suspense Midnight Hours