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Aytekin Aliyeva 6.11.2012 Subject-Verb AgreementSubject-Verb Agreement is a concord between the subject and the verb. It helps to create smoothand logical sentences. The basic rule of sentence agreement is simple: A subject must agree withits verb in number. Number means singular or plural:A singular subject names one person, place, thing, or idea.A plural subject names more than one person, place, thing, or idea.There are some important limitations to Subject-verb agreement.1) Agreement only applies when the verb is in the present tense. In the past tense, there is noclear agreement between the subject and the verb: • The dog howled all night. • The dogs howled all night.The verb be is exception. Whether used as a main verb or as an auxiliary, the verb be hasdistinctions, which extend to the past tense. In the present tense, it has three forms, adding adistinctive form am for the first person singular in agreement with the pronoun. • At the moment I am at home doing some work on a word processor. (1st person singular) • She is the biggest disappointment of his life. (3rd person singular) • Well, you are going to be a doctor. (2nd person singular)The verb be is the only verb to display distinctions in number and person for the past tense. Wasis used for the first and third persons singular, and were is used otherwise: • She was in America last year. • We were angry because of his silly behaviors.2) Agreement applies only to third person subjects. There is no distinction, for example,between a first person singular subject and a first person plural subject: I see her. We see her.The concept of Notional Agreement sometimes comes into play: • The government is considering the proposal. • The government are considering the proposal.Here, the form of the verb is not determined by the form of the subject. Instead, it is determinedby how we interpret the subject. In the government is..., the subject is interpreted as a unit,requiring a singular form of the verb. In the government are..., the subject is interpreted as wordhaving a plural meaning, since it relates to a collection of individual people. Accordingly, theverb has the plural form are.3) Subject-verb agreement applies to the first verb in the verb phrase, whether it is a main verbor an auxiliary which has two forms: the -s form (ending in -s) and the base (or uninflected)form.
Modal auxiliaries do not have an -s form, so the agreement rule does not apply to them. In thefollowing example, modal will is used with singular and plural subjects: • My door will always be open to you. (Singular) • Pains will be part of memories. (Plural) Some Rules in Concord 1. When a subject has two or more items joined by and, we usually use a plural verb. Jean and David are moving back to America. But if we put pronouns every, each in front of the subjects combined by and then the verb will be singular. Every woman, man, and child needs love. 2. Plural subjects that function as a single unit take a singular verb. But a compound subject joined by and is plural and must have a plural verb. • Spaghetti and meatballs is my favorite dish. • Tom and Jerry is a famous cartoon. • Brownie and ice cream are my favorite desserts. 3. When I is one of the two subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor, put it second and follow it with the singular verb am. Neither she nor I am going to the festival. 4. If one subject is singular and one plural and are connected by the words or, nor, neither/nor, either/or, and not only/but also, the verb will agree with the nearest subject. Either the bears or the lion has escaped from the zoo. Neither the lion nor the bears have escaped from the zoo. The serving bowl or the plates go on that shelf. 5. Hard-to-find subjects. Some subjects can be harder to find than others. Subjects that come after the verb are especially tricky. (Inverted sentences) In the bottom of the lake are two old cars. Among the people invited was the major. Displayed on the board were the exam results. 6. Ignore intervening phrases.
Disregard words or phrases that come between the subject and the verb. It is the subjectthat determines whether verb is singular or plural and the subject is main noun, not aprepositional phrase.• A woman with her three children was waiting outside.• The colors of the rainbow are beautiful.• The captain of the guards stands at the door of Buckingham Palace.7. Sometimes the pronoun who, that, or which is the subject of a verb in the middle of the sentence. Those pronouns become singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them. • One of my best friends is here. • He is one of those teachers who insist/insists on pupils sitting silently in class.8. Sometimes the subject is separated from the verb by words such as along with, as well as, besides, or not. Ignore these expressions when determining whether to use a singular or plural verb. • Excitement, as well as nervousness, is the cause of her shaking. • Two girls from our building, along with Anna are in college.9. When the subject is a gerund, an infinitive or a clause the verb is singular.Reading comics is his favorite thing.But when two or more gerunds are linked by and they take the plural form. • Reading comics and playing drums are his hobbies. • To keep these people in prison is inhuman. However, if the what-clause is a subject we use a singular verb if the following main noun issingular, and either a singular or plural verb if the following main noun is plural. • What worries us is the poor selection process. • What is needed are additional resources.10. With words that indicate portions— percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, and so on —look at the noun in your of phrase (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.• One-third of the city is unemployed.• One-third of the people are unemployed.11. A collective noun can usually take either a singular or a plural verb.The orchestra consists of eighty-six musicians.The orchestra dont know what to play.12. Subjects that are singular in meaning but plural in form require a singular verb.
• Fields of study that end in –ics (Mathematics is complicated for her.) • Certain illnesses that end in –s (Rabies is an infectious illness.) • Arithmetic expressions (Three plus four is seven.) • Games (Darts is a form of throwing game.) • Names and titles of movies, books etc. (The Machine Gunners was one of Robert Westfall’s most successful books) • Expressions of time, money, and distance (Ten dollars is a high price to pay.) • The word news. (The news is on very night at 11:00 P.M.)References: 1. Betty Schrampfer Azar, Understanding and Using English Grammar, III Edition, Chapter 6 2. Martin Hewings, Advanced Grammar in Use, II Edition, Units: 40, 41, 42 3. George Yule, Oxford Practice Grammar (Advanced), Unit 1 4. Jane Straus, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammar, Subject-Verb Agreement 5. Laurie Rozakis, English Grammar for the Utterly Confused, Chapter 5 6. Loai Breigheith, English Language Grammar , Form and Function, Characteristics of the Subject 7. Louis George Alexander, Longman English Grammar, Quantity, Distributives 8. John Eastwood, Oxford Practice Grammar, II Edition, Unit 79, Agreement 9. Sidney Greenbaum, The Oxford English Grammar, Unit 5, The Grammar of Phrases