myQBook Grammar Concept



Common mistakes: Subject-Verb Agreement

Many students commonly get confused with subject-verb agreement. There is an easy rule to follow when choosing a verb for any subject.

A singular subject requires a singular verb; a plural subject requires a plural verb.

The most confusion arises when the subject is hard to find. This mainly happens when:

·         Phrases or clauses come before or after the subject. For example, consider the following sentence:

 

The pile of suitcases that had been sitting for hours between luggage belts D and E were finally removed to a storage area.

 

In the above sentence, the subject is hard to find.

 

1.       The phrase “that had been sitting for hours between luggage belts D and E” hides the subject. You might think that “luggage belts D and E” is the subject. In that case, the verb "were" would be correct.

 

2.       If you take out the phrase following the noun, however, you are left with:

 

“The pile of suitcases were finally removed to a storage area.”

 

You now may think that “suitcases” is the correct noun. However, you should notice the preposition “of” that comes right before “suitcases”. “Suitcases” is actually the object of the preposition "of".

 

3.       Now, if you take out the prepositional phrase “of suitcases”, you are left with,

 

“The pile were finally removed to a storage area.”

 

This is obviously wrong. The singular subject, “pile”, requires the singular verb “was”. Therefore, the plural verb “were” in the original sentence is wrong. The correct form of the sentence is:

 

The pile of suitcases that had been sitting for hours between luggage belts D and E was finally removed to a storage area.

 

·         There is a possessive noun before the actual subject. Although less often than the previous reason, students sometimes get confused when there is a possessive noun before the actual subject. Consider the following sentence:

 

The family’s creative ideas has helped the family for five generations.

 

In this sentence, some people may think that the subject is “family”. However, they are missing the point that “family’s” is possessive. Possessive nouns cannot be the subject of a sentence. They simply serve to describe the actual noun. In this case, the actual noun is the plural noun “ideas”. This does not match with the singular verb “has”. The correct form of the sentence is:

 

The family’s creative ideas have helped the family for five generations.

 





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Irregular verbs
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