Agreement of Subject and Verb: A Guide to Proper Grammar

As a writer or editor, it`s important to have a good understanding of agreement of subject and verb (also known as subject-verb agreement) in order to ensure proper grammar in your writing. This grammatical principle deals with the relationship between the subject and the verb of a sentence, and how they must agree in terms of number and person.

Number refers to the singular or plural form of a sentence, while person refers to the perspective from which the sentence is being written – first person (I, we), second person (you), or third person (he, she, it, they). In order to achieve proper subject-verb agreement, the verb must agree with the subject in both number and person.

For example, in the sentence “The dog barks,” the subject (dog) is singular and third person, while the verb (barks) is also singular and third person. This is an example of proper subject-verb agreement. However, if the sentence were to read “The dogs bark,” the verb would need to be changed to the plural form (bark) to match the plural subject (dogs).

Similarly, if the subject of a sentence is in one person (first, second, or third) and the verb is in another, the sentence will read awkwardly and will be grammatically incorrect.

For example, in the sentence “I am going to the store,” the subject (I) is singular and first person, while the verb (am going) is also singular and first person. If the sentence were changed to “I am going to the store, but they are waiting for me,” the pronoun “they” is plural and third person, and therefore the verb “are waiting” must agree in both number and person with the subject “they.”

Common Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement

One common error in subject-verb agreement occurs with collective nouns. Collective nouns are singular nouns that refer to a group of people or things, such as “team,” “family,” or “group.” While these nouns are singular, they refer to multiple individuals, and therefore the verb that follows must be plural. For example, “The team are playing in the championship game” is incorrect, as the verb “are playing” is plural and does not agree with the singular subject “team.” Instead, the sentence should read “The team is playing in the championship game.”

Another common mistake is when the subject and verb are separated by a phrase or clause, making it difficult to determine the correct agreement. In these cases, it`s important to identify the subject of the sentence and ensure that the verb agrees with it, rather than with one of the intervening words. For example, the sentence “The book, along with the pen and paper, were on the desk” is incorrect, as the plural verb “were” does not agree with the singular subject “book.” Instead, the sentence should read “The book, along with the pen and paper, was on the desk.”

In conclusion, proper agreement of subject and verb is essential for clear and effective writing. By ensuring that the verb agrees with the subject in both number and person, you can create sentences that are grammatically correct and easy to understand. Remember to watch out for common errors, such as collective nouns and intervening phrases, and always proofread your writing for proper subject-verb agreement.