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Identifying Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement

Identifying Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement

Author: Mackenzie W

Identify errors in subject-verb agreement.

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Subject-Verb Agreement

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, everyone. I'm Mackenzie, and today we're learning about subject-verb agreement. Have you ever written a sentence that you thought just didn't sound quite right? In this tutorial, we'll learn about the definition of subject-verb agreement. We'll take a look at some examples of subject-verb agreement, and we'll discuss subject-verb agreement in special situations.

Let's begin by discussing the definition of subject-verb agreement. When I say subject-verb agreement, I'm talking about the subject and a verb in a sentence. There are two different words, two different parts of the sentence. But they're connected together. They relate to each other, which means they have to match each other.

Let's talk specifically about the subject. The subject of the sentence is some sort of noun, or it might be a pronoun or a noun phrase. This means that it's a person, a place, a thing, or an idea. It's the thing that the sentence is talking about.

And then we have the verb. Verb is an action word, or it communicates some sort of state of being. The verb relates to the noun. The noun is doing the verb. That's how they're related. And that means that they have to match because subjects can be singular or they can be plural, and that means that we have to have the correct form of the verb to match the noun that we have.

For example, if I say, "I dance. You dance. We dance. He or she dances." "He" or "she" has a different type of the verb, and that's based on what the noun is. The good thing to keep in mind about subject-verb agreement is we only have to worry about this when we're using present tense because other tenses of verbs don't happen to have this particular problem.

One of the best ways for us to understand subject-verb agreement is to look at some examples. I'm going to show us three examples that include subject-verb disagreement. This means that there are problems with subject-verb agreement in these samples. We'll take a look at the problems, and I'll show you how to fix them.

Our first example reads, "the two sisters, who are allergic to peanuts, eats apples at lunchtime instead of peanut butter sandwiches." First, we have to figure out what the subject is. We have to figure out, is it singular or plural?

If we look at the sentence, we realize that the subject is the two sisters. That's what the sentence is talking about. That's the person, place, thing, or idea that's the focus of the sentence. So we know that that's the subject. And we know that it's two sisters, which means it's plural.

Now we have to locate the verb. The verb is the action word that's going on here. The action word is "eats." That's what the sisters are doing-- eating apples instead of sandwiches.

Now we have to figure out if they match. "Eats" is actually the singular form of the verb to eat. And since we have a plural subject, we know that this is wrong. We have to change it to the word "eat." The two sisters eat apples.

Our next example reads, "using sympathetic characters, the author write very touching stories." Take a moment to decide what do you think is the subject of this sentence, and what do you think is the verb of this sentence? The subject here is "the author."

Now we have to find the verb. The verb here is "write." That's what the subject of the sentence, the author, is doing. Now we have to question whether or not the subject is singular or plural and if that matches the verb tense here.

The author, the subject, is singular. It's one author. But yet we have the plural version of the verb "to write." They don't match. Instead, this should say "the author writes."

This next example is a little trickier. We have two subjects, two verbs, and they both have subject-verb disagreement. I want you to take a moment to locate both of the subjects and both of the verbs in the sentence and decide how you would fix them for their subject-verb agreement problem. Pause the video if you need to.

The example reads, "you often sings along with the radio in the car, but I does not like it." Let's talk about the first part of this sentence, "you often sings along with the radio in the car." "You" is the subject here. That's the noun that's completing the action.

And the action or the verb is singing along to the radio. So "sings" is our verb here. So it really should say "you often sing along."

Now for the second part of the sentence-- "but I does not like it." "I" is the subject here. "Does" is the action word here. It's the verb. It's communicating a state of being. Instead, this should say "but I do not like it." These examples helped us to identify a subject and a verb in a sentence so we can determine if they match, if there is subject-verb agreement.

Now that we know that subject-verb agreement means that the subject and the verb in the sentence have to match each other, whether they're singular or plural, we can now think about trickier examples. There are some special situations in which subject-verb agreement gets sort of complicated. I'm going to show us some examples.

Our first example reads, "the team drink Gatorade after the game." And this example gets confusing because the subject is "the team," which is singular. It's one team. But the reason it's confusing is because the team is comprised of multiple people, which would be plural. It should say "the team drinks Gatorade" because, even though the team is made up of multiple people, we're only talking about one team.

Our next example is even more complicated because now we're adding in an additional person. It now reads, "the team and the coach drinks Gatorade after the game." Now we're talking about the team, which, remember, even though it's multiple people, is just one team. Therefore, it's singular. And we're including the coach, which is just one person.

So even though that's also singular, we need for this to be plural because we have one team plus one coach, which equals two things. Now it needs to be plural. It needs to say "the team and the coach drink Gatorade after the game."

The phrasing of this next example also causes it to be somewhat confusing. "Neither the team nor the coach drink Gatorade after the game." So even though we still have the team and the coach, which we already decided was plural because it's two ideas, it's now going to change because of the word "neither" and the word "nor."

These words cause us to focus on each of the ideas as individuals. This means that it should read "neither the team nor the coach drinks Gatorade after the game" because we're now stating the team and the coach as separate entities.

Here are a few more examples. The first one reads "the mother cat and her kittens runs into the barn." The reason this is confusing is the mother cat, which is singular, and it's her kittens, which is plural. So when we put it all together, it equals plural. The mother cat and her kittens-- that's more than one thing, so that means that we need to have the plural form of the word "run." So it needs to say, "the mother cat and her kittens run into the barn."

Our next example reads "the mother cat, with her kittens behind her, run into the barn." The structure of this sentence changes the meaning a little bit. Now we're focusing on the mother cat. She is the one doing the verb, doing the action of running. The part of the sentence that says "with her kittens behind her" is just extra information. We're not indicating that the kittens are actually doing the running.

So this means that in this instance, the subject is singular and the verb needs to be singular. Right now it's plural, so we have to change it. It should say "the mother cat, with her kittens behind her, runs into the barn."

And for our last example-- "each one of the kittens run behind its mother into the barn." The reason this is confusing is because we're still talking about the kittens. And kittens are plural. There's more than one kitten. But because we have the first part of the sentence-- "each one of the kittens"-- we're now talking about each of the kittens as an individual. And that means that the subject is singular, even though "kittens" would be plural. So this should say, "each one of the kittens runs behind its mother into the barn."

Even though each of these examples of subject-verb agreement in special situations has its own potential to be a little confusing, the more we know about them, the better we are at recognizing them and avoiding them.

In this tutorial, we learned about the definition of subject-verb agreement. We looked at some examples of subject-verb agreement, and we discussed subject-verb agreement in special situations. Make sure your words match each other. I'm Mackenzie. Thanks for listening.

Terms to Know

Within a sentence, the subject is the noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that represents the focus of a clause and, if the clause contains a verb, the subject is the agent that does the verb action.


A word that defines actions or indicates a state of being.