RECOGNIZING SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT ERRORS
- 1. Identify all VERBS. (Test sentence: “I can ___.” OR “I ___.”)
- Check for any prepositions; cross out any prepositional phrases. Subjects are never in prepositional phrases.
about because of except of toward
above before for on under
across behind from onto until
after below in over up
among beside in spite of past upon
around between into through with
as by like till without
at during near to
- Identify all REAL SUBJECTS. (Test question: “Who/What does the verb? “Who/What ___?”)
- For each subject-verb pair, check if the SUBJECT is singular or plural.
[Verbs are underlined; subjects are boxed.]
à Substitute the word “IT” in place of a SINGULAR SUBJECT.
- Ex. The student was late. → “student” → singular subject → “it” for “student”→
“It” was late.
à Substitute the word “THEY” in place of a PLURAL SUBJECT.
- Ex. The students was late. → “students” →plural subject → “they” for “students” →
“They” was late.
- Now check the match between the substitute SUBJECT (“IT”/”THEY”) and the VERB.
Does the “it” + VERB match?
- Ex. “It” was (late.) à Yes, match = S-V Agreement is OK
Does the “they” + VERB match?
- Ex. “They” was (late.) à No, no match = S-V Agreement error
To correct the S-V error, change either the SUBJECT or
VERB so that the pair matches.
- Subjects are never part of a prepositional phrase: Prepositional phrases often occur between the subject and the verb. Do not confuse the object of the prepositional phrase with the real subject of the verb.
- Two subjects joined by andare plural.
- The wagon and the chair were for sale.
- There/Here: In a sentence beginning with there or here, the order of the subject and verb is reversed.
- There were several people in the park this morning.
- Here is the person with the keys.
- If a subject is modified by each or every, it is singular.
- Each marine and soldier was responsible for a section of the beach.
- Every runner and spectator is eager for the start.
- Indefinite pronouns are usually singular.
- anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, somebody, someone, something
- A few nouns and indefinite pronouns, such as none, some, all, most, more, half, or part, (and other fractions), may sometimes be considered plural and sometimes singular, depending on the prepositional phrase that follows them.
- (singular) Half of the milk is nonfat.
- (plural) Half of the stores were open.
- When either/or, neither/not, or or joins the subjects, the verb agrees with the subject closer to it.
- Neither the bear nor the tigers want to enter the enclosure.
- Neither the tigers nor the bear wants to enter the enclosure.
- Collective nouns usually take the singular form of the verb. Collective nouns represent groups of people or things, but they are considered singular in writing.
- Audience, band, class, committee, crowd, family, flock, group, herd, jury, society, team
- The class was asked to leave the room quickly. The team runs twenty laps each day.
- A few nouns end in “s” but are considered singular; they take the singular form of the verb. These nouns include economics, gymnastics, mathematics, measles, mumps, news, physics, and politics.
- Physics is not my favorite subject.
- The news was unusual tonight.
- When units of measurement for distance, time, weight, volume, height, weight, money, and so on are used as subjects, they take the singular verb form.
- Five gallons of water was all that we needed.
- Forty miles is a long hike.
Underline the verbs and box the real subjects in each sentence; then use the Steps to determine whether the sentence contains any subject-verb agreement errors. If a sentence contains an error, highlight the error. Corrections are in brackets .
Car insurance rates are most fairly determined by a person’s age, sex, and area of residence. An older person need[s] to have lower rates than a younger person because he has more maturity and
are[is] less likely to have an accident. Insurance rates need to be based on sex because of certain characteristics that men and women drivers has[have]. The area in which a person resides would also affect insurance rates, since there is[are] certain places where a car is in more danger of being damaged or stolen.