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Module 3 - Subjects and Verbs: They Always Have To Agree!

In order to be an effective writer, your sentences, which are made up of subjects and verbs, should be correct -- in grammar and in thought. This is where subject-verb agreement comes in.

Let's review the basic definitions of a subject and a verb:

Subject
The word or group of words about which an assertion is made.

Verb
The word or group of words that conveys the action or state of being expressed in a clause.

Simply put, the subject of a sentence tells "who" or "what" while the verb tells what was done -- "Who or what did what?"

When we talk about the agreement between your subject and verb, it is not grammatically correct to say something like, "She don't give me money," or "Everybody are here."

When your noun or pronoun (your subject) is singular, your verb should also be in its singular form. So you say, "She doesn't give me money," or "Everybody is here."

Sometimes, though, it becomes quite confusing to determine whether or not the subject of a sentence is singular or plural. This usually happens when the singular subject is separated from its verb by several words that have a plural sound to them.

For example, which is correct:

Each of the 30 mothers, not to mention their
husbands, are attending the PTA meeting.

OR

Each of the 30 mothers, not to mention their
husbands, is attending the PTA meeting.

The second sentence is correct. "Each" is singular (refers to each mother attending the PTA meeting) and should always be followed by the singular form of a verb.

Writing Activities/Exercises

Let's see if you can make the subjects and the verbs agree. Try out this exercise:

  1. When someone coughs, (HE, THEY) should cover (THEIR, HIS) mouth.
  2. This book, together with its cover, (BELONG, BELONGS) to me.
  3. Doesn't anybody have (THEIR, HIS) own set of beliefs?
  4. Each of the employees mush wear (HIS, THEIR) identification.
  5. A student's aim in studying and passing his tests (IS, ARE) to graduate.
  6. The taste of candy, sugar and cake (WERE, WAS) too sweet for me.
  7. The purpose of these writing modules and exercises (IS, ARE) to help you write effectively.
  8. Jane, along with her sister, (RUN, RUNS) a home-based business.
  9. None of the men will admit that (HE, THEY) broke the car's engine.
  10. Every day has (THEIR, ITS) surprises.
  11. Nobody is going to improve (HER, THEIR) cooking skills unless (THEY, SHE) tries.
  12. The output of the three clothing factories and their 500 employees (IS, ARE) 150 suits a day.
  13. If somebody wants a drink, (THEY, HE) should let me know.
  14. Everyone must bring (HIS, THEIR) own lunch.
  15. Will any student who has not done so please submit (HIS, THEIR) assignment now?


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