Subject-Verb Agreement A Tutorial for Writers Prepared by Dr. Brenda Cornell Central Texas College Good writing involves style, but more than that, clarity. In clear sentences, subjects and verbs agree. In sensible sentences, subjects and verbs agree. In sentences written by knowledgeable writers, subjects and verbs agree. When subjects and verbs “agree”. .. They match! The “I” subject uses the first-person singular verb form. The “you” subject uses the second person singular or plural verb form. The “he,” “she,” or “it” subject uses the third person singular verb form. Look at an example: I see If you do not know the You see verb forms, look them He, she, or it sees up in your handbook. These are singular subjects with singular forms of the verb “to see.” When the plural subjects are used (“we,” “you,” and “they”). . . The plural verb forms are used along with them: We see You see They see Again, “to see” is an easy one ! Subject and Verb Separated by a Word Group. . . If a word group comes between the subject and verb, match the verb choice with the subject: This bunch of bananas looks ready to eat. (one bunch) Another example: Several books required for my paper (is, are) not in our library. Which verb choice is correct? What is the subject? Two singular subjects, joined by and usually take a plural verb. . . Restoring computers and running track consume most of Frank’s leisure time. One singular and one plural subject. . . When one singular EXAMPLES: and one plural subject are joined by “either- Neither John nor his or” or “neither-nor,” parents are at home. the verb should agree with the closer subject. OR: NOTICE WHICH WAY READS Neither his parents nor SMOOTHER. John is at home. Collective Nouns as Subjects Collective nouns (class, committee, family, majority) are singular in form but stand for groups or collections of people or things. Usually collective nouns take singular verbs. EXAMPLE: The class is listening to a lecture. When the verb comes ahead of the subject. . . Sentences that begin EXAMPLES: with here, there, how, what, and where are Here is my house. in this category. There go my chances for promotion. The verb must agree Where are my shoes? with the noun that follows it. Practice a bit. Choose the correct verb: The library, along with many of the books, (was, were) severely damaged by the storm. What (does, do) these new printers cost? A van or three cars (is, are) needed to drive the wrestling team to the meet. There (is, are) a few advantages to carefully planning your work schedule. In summary, . . . Remember the few rules presented for harmonious relationships between your subjects and verbs! Works Cited Reinking, Hart, and van der Osten. Strategies for Successful Writing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2002.
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