Back to Basics: Subject Verb Agreement
Once again, today’s topic is one where errors tend to make me cringe. It’s to the point where C. L. makes subject verb agreement or comparatives errors on purpose to pick at me because he finds the faces I make in response hilarious. However, these kinds of mistakes irk me for a different reason than negative concord (double negatives) like we spoke about last time.
Each language has its own unique rhythm. The spoken word has been compared to music for good reason. Listening to someone speak well or reading a bit of good writing aloud plays over the ear like a melody. In that context, grammatical errors stick out like sour notes.
At least to my ears, mistakes with subject verb agreement and comparatives sound more like a woodwind squawking than a simple wrong note.
What is subject verb agreement?
In English, the verb must reflect whether the subject of the sentence is singular or plural when speaking in third person and the present tense. When both the subject and verb of a sentence are singular or both of them are plural, they are said to be in agreement.
How can a verb be plural?
The hard and fast rule is, singular verbs end in “s” where plural verbs do not.
He is a basketball player.
They are a team.
She crochets afghans for fun.
My aunt and uncle paint pictures to sell at craft shows.
The sentences above are simple. The verbs follow directly after their subjects, and there isn’t a compound subject in the bunch. When you are checking for subject verb agreement, make sure you correctly identify your subject. There are instances where a singular subject is followed by a list of plural examples before the verb, which is a common cause of confusion. Compound subjects also trip up a lot of people.
When deciding whether your verb needs to be singular or plural, discount any excess phrases between the subject and verb.
The use of notes and calculators is prohibited during the test.
Even though there are two nouns connected with the word “and” in the sentence above, it doesn’t have a compound subject. The real subject of this example sentence is use.
Anna and Marie are my best friends.
This sentence has a compound subject, so the verb needs to be plural.
Okay, I know how English is. What are the exceptions?
Even irregular verbs will have some form that ends in “s,” which should be used when writing or speaking in third person, present. Even have and be can be used as has and is to conform to his rule. However, there are a few verbs, called modal verbs, which never change forms no matter which conjugation is needed. Verbs like could, should, would, can, might, may, and must are modal verbs. They are the exceptions to this rule.
What about when you use other voices and tenses?
This rule does apply to any voice within the simple present tense. Third person is singled out because it’s the voice in which most confusion takes place since it is broader than either first or second person. Present perfect, past, past perfect, and future tenses all have their own conjugation rules, and those take precedence.
There you have the basics of determining subject verb agreement. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll return on the 27th for a discussion on paragraphs.
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A. B. England is a novelist, all around geek, avid crafter, and the home-schooling mother of two.
She is an autistic creator with a love of mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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