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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Verb-Subject Agreement

Verb-Subject Agreement

Yes, I know this is normally written subject-verb agreement, but I needed a V-word in my A to Z theme of writing conventions. Please don't hold this stretch against me.

Subjects and verbs in sentences should always agree in number. In other words, singular subjects should have singular verbs and plural subjects should have plural verbs. Keep in mind that most nouns are made plural by adding -s to the end. Most verbs with an -s on the end are singular. Subject-verb agreement rules to remember:

1) The pronouns anyone, someone, everyone, no one, anybody are SINGULAR pronouns and must be accompanied by a SINGULAR verb.
     For example: Everyone sees the hypocrisy of  attending church to meet customers and make more sales. No one denies that such things are done. Someday, someone is going to address the practice from the pulpit. Most anyone agrees, however, that at least the hypocrites are at church.

2) Each is always SINGULAR and requires a SINGULAR verb.
     For example: Each of the real estate agents expresses guilt when confronted by the deacons. Each regrets dropping his business card into the offering plate. Each of the agents is embarrassed. (Each is the subject of the first and third sentences, not agents. Agents is part of the prepositional phrase that begins with the word to. A sentence's subject and verb are NEVER part of a prepositional phrase.)

3) Careful! Either and neither are SINGULAR subjects and require a SINGULAR verb.
     For example: Neither dress is appropriate for the wedding.Either is designed to upstage the bride.

4) When and joins two subjects, a PLURAL verb follows.
     For example: The fuchsia dress and the white dress are not acceptable choices.

5) When or or nor is used, the subject closest to the verb determines whether or not it will be PLURAL or SINGULAR.
     For example: The cornflower blue dress or the skirts are appropriate for the occasion. Black pantsuits nor the off-white ensemble is too business-like for a Saturday afternoon affair.

6) Don't accompanies a PLURAL subject. Doesn't accompanies a SINGULAR subject.
     For example: They don't know how to fish with a cane pole. Louise doesn't care to teach them. She doesn't like to bait her own hook, but they don't offer to help her. No one has fun on those fishing trips.

In English, subject-verb agreement can get very tricky. We have lots of nouns that end in -s, but are singular, such as news, mathematics and measles. We have many collective nouns that we know to be more than one person or thing, but that are treated as if they are singular, such as team, family, fleet, and crew. Proceed with caution.

Tomorrow: Who v. Whom

This post is brought to you by the April A to Z Blog Challenge. Check back all through April for daily discussions of writing conventions.


Wendy said...

Agreement rules require us to think and analyze at the moment. Alas, that's too much for some people. I look forward to Who/Whom -- I have a tip and a trick for teaching it, so I'm eager to see what you do.

Jo said...

In England grammar is taught early in school and if one's parents speak correctly, we absorb it with our mother's milk so to speak. But reading your posts makes me realise how complicated it can be for people learning the language.

Jo said...

I often quote Churchill's comment on good grammar "Up with which I shall not put" correct, but unusuable.

Betty Alark said...

Keep the lessons coming, Lucy! My brain needs the reinforcement and the humor-hahaha!

My plan is to come back after the challenge and get all the reinforcement that I can!!

Have a great day!

Donna K. Weaver said...

It get really crazy when people try to avoid gender specific language and use their for a singular subject. Makes me nuts because it's not that hard to rephrase the sentence so they agree.

Chronicles From The Man Cave said...

Do you know how many years it has been since I have even thought of Verb Subject agreement? It was when I went back to college 13 years ago and took a Creative Writing course.

Thanks for visiting my page. A few years back you could find the boxed set of Voyage to the bottom of the sea at Walmart. Also about two years ago Mobius scale models released a large scale model of the Seaview, with mini sub, diving bell and flying sub included, as well as a mock up of the command center and figures. It was around 125.00 and yes I own the model.

Hope you can find the episodes. Some are available on You Tube and I know that net flix has all four years available in their library of tv shows and movies.

Have a great day, and again thanks for the visit.

Joy Ciaffoni said...

I am going to go back to read some of your earlier posts. These are great reminders you have going.

Betsy said...

Listening to someone break the subject-verb agreement rules is like listening to nails on a chalkboard! With the addition of Facebook and texting in our daily lives, reading it all the time is almost worse! I constantly want to correct my friends... but, you know, I don't want to be *that* person. I'll silently correct them, sigh and move on!

Rick Daley said...

Good post on a tricky subject (pun not intended ;-)

Janna said...

It should be so simple, but I actually had a conversation with my college-attending sister, explaining to her that it is "people are," not "people is." I bought her "The Elements of F***ing Style (a parody on Strunk and White, but still informative) for Christmas. Here's hoping she's cracked it open.

50 foot QE said...

I will have to paste this on my helpful hints page. I always go with what sounds correct but when explaining to 4th graders it is good to have a guideline.

Lynn said...

Great V post. This takes me back to English classes. :)

William Kendall said...

Great post, Lucy!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lucy .. another great post - I'm not sure I ever had English classes .. well I did, but have no idea about grammar .. so this is so helpful.

Cheers Hilary

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