Subject-verb agreement is an essential component of good writing. It ensures that the subject and its corresponding verb act as a team to convey a clear and precise meaning. Often, subject-verb agreement errors can come across as careless, confusing, and unprofessional. To prevent such mistakes, follow these five subject-verb agreement rules.

1. Match the subject and verb in number

In English, all verbs must agree in number with their subjects. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. For instance, “The cat runs” is correct, but “The cat run” is incorrect. Similarly, “The cats run” is correct, but “The cats runs” is incorrect.

2. Account for compound nouns and subjects

Compound nouns or subjects, which consist of two or more combined words, can be tricky when it comes to subject-verb agreement. Compound nouns are treated as singular, while compound subjects joined by “and” are treated as plural. For example, “The book club meets every Tuesday” is correct because the compound noun “book club” serves as a singular subject. However, “John and Jane study together” is correct because the compound subject “John and Jane” is plural.

3. Recognize collective nouns

Collective nouns, which represent a group of individuals, can be singular or plural depending on their context. If the collective noun refers to a group acting as a unit, it should be treated as singular. On the other hand, if the collective noun refers to each member of the group, it should be treated as plural. For instance, “The team wins every match” is singular since we are referring to the team as a single entity. “The team members win every match” is plural because we are referring to the individual members.

4. Consider indefinite and relative pronouns

Indefinite pronouns, such as someone, anybody, or everyone, are always singular. Therefore, the verb should also be singular. For example, “Everyone is responsible for their actions.” Relative pronouns, such as who, that, or which, are usually singular. However, they can be plural when referring to more than one entity, such as “The students who have studied hard are ready for the exam.”

5. Watch out for prepositional phrases

A prepositional phrase that comes between the subject and verb does not affect subject-verb agreement. The verb should agree with the subject, regardless of the prepositional phrase. For example, “The book on the shelf belongs to the library” is correct because the subject “book” is singular, even though “on the shelf” is a prepositional phrase.

In conclusion, subject-verb agreement is an essential aspect of good writing. Errors in subject-verb agreement can change the meaning of a sentence and lead to confusion and ambiguity. By applying these five rules, you can ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and error-free.


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