Basic SUBJECT – VERB AGREEMENT Written By: Mr. Joel D. Aldrich
I got a hold of some bad pork chops the other day, and they didn't agree with me. Stomach aches aren't very pleasant. Don't you agree ?
The subject and verb must agree in number: both must be singular, or both must be plural. Problems occur in the present tense because one must add an -s or -es at the end of the verb when the subjects or the entity performing the action is a singular third person: he, she, it , or words for which these pronouns could substitute.
Notice the difference between singular and plural forms in the following examples: Singular Plural The student sings . Your children sing. (He or she sings) (They sing) The bird does migrate. Those birds do migrate. (It does) (They do)
In order to find out if your subject and verb agree, you need to be able to identify the subject of your sentence. Here are some helpful hints that will help you to decipher where your subject is and where it is not.
We all know these meanings of "agree," but when we talk about subject-verb agreement, we're talking about something different: matching subjects and verbs according to number. That is, when you have a singular subject, you have to match it with a singular verb form: The boy plays . When you have a plural subject, you must have a plural verb form: The boys play .
In short, simple sentences, you should have no problem with agreement. You can hear the problem: The boys plays . When it's wrong , it just sounds funny. However, there are four potential problem spots that you need to watch carefully:
stuff in between the subject and verb
reversed sentence order
"-body," "-one," and "-thing" words
"who," "which," and "that"
The stuff here is usually a prepositional phrase that separates the subject from the verb. Remember how we crossed out prepositional phrases in order to find the subject? Do the same thing if you're having problems with agreement. Now, thinking about that, look at the following sentence and decide what's wrong with it:
Good guess! The subject and the verb don't agree. What's the probable cause for the problem? Kitchen (a singular noun) is right in front of is (a singular verb). If kitchen were the subject, that would be okay. But, it's not. Cross out the prepositional phrase and you're left with: