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Grammar: verb agreement. Cathrine Norberg and Marie Nordlund Luleå University of Technology Department of Arts, Communication and Education. Table of Contents. Table of Contents. What is agreement? Exercise 1 Exercise 2 Exercise 3 Exercise 4 Exercise 5 Exercise 6 Exercise 7.

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grammar verb agreement

Grammar: verb agreement

Cathrine Norberg and Marie Nordlund

Luleå University of Technology

Department of Arts, Communication and Education

Table of Contents

table of contents
Table of Contents
  • What is agreement?
  • Exercise 1
  • Exercise 2
  • Exercise 3
  • Exercise 4
  • Exercise 5
  • Exercise 6
  • Exercise 7
what is agreement
What is agreement?

Linguistic competence in a foreign language encompasses many different abilities. One such ability is grammatical correctness. Within grammar agreement is an important part which contributes not only to grammatical correctness but also to idiomaticity. There are different kinds of agreement, for example, noun-adjective, noun-verb and noun-pronoun. The effect of agreement mistakes is that the text may be considered stylistically inferior and this judgement will most probably also influence the recipient’s view of the writer. Commonly, agreement mistakes are not observed equally easily in a foreign language, but are eye-catching in one’s native language. To illustrate this, consider the sentences on the following slide.

Table of Contents

slide4

Swedish: Boken handlar om en 12-åriga pojke som lever tillsammans med sin familj i en mysigt om än något trångt lägenhet i centrala stan. French: Michel et Marie est des gens très gentil, qui m’aide souvent. German: Michael und Mariaist sehr nett. Siehilft mir gern. Italian: Michele e Mariaè molto gentile e mi aiuta spesso. English: Differencesis what makes us unique, but it also give us the chance to come together and look at our differences. Please continue to the next slide for further information.

Table of Contents

slide5

It is, of course, impossible to cover all possible agreement mistakes in a particular language in a grammar book or in exercises such as those presented here. Therefore, it is essential to become aware of the underlying system of a foreign language, that is, to acquire a linguistic competence. In this section, the focus is on subject-verb agreement. The exercises are designed to highlight common problem areas in English and increase your conscious awareness of agreement. To access the exercises, please return to the Table of Contents.

Table of Contents

exercise 1 each of the following sentences contains one agreement mistake correct them
Exercise 1.Each of the following sentences contains one agreement mistake. Correct them.
  • If different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually oblige us to think about. (key)
  • There has been many proposals for regulating the right of public access, but none of them has been put into law. (key)
  • That Chinese people have trouble with English sounds because the shape of their mouths are different is a language myth. (key)
  • The research his early writings inspired have left us able to say with some confidence that … (key)
  • Educational innovation and other developments affecting the world population, for example, the Chinese government’s policy of one baby per family, was also factored in. (key)

Table of Contents

slide7

Exercise 2.In these sentences the problem is to figure out whether the subject is in the singular or in the plural. Choose the correct alternative.

  • Everybody present was/were in favour of the suggestion. (key)
  • The analyses was/were carefully done. (key)
  • Where on earth is/are the scissors? (key)
  • A large number of students does/do not want to do the exam on Friday. (key)
  • The number of students at the university is/are increasing. (key)
  • 50 per cent of the debt has/have not yet been paid. (key)
  • Either Keith or Kate is/are coming to the seminar. (key)
  • Kate, as well as Keith, has/have given notice. (key)

Table of Contents

slide8
Exercise 3.The subject in the following sentences can be understood as either singular or plural. Discuss the difference.
  • The government is/are discussing new measures for dealing with racism. (comment)
  • The statistics shows/show that this trend has gained momentum. (comment)
  • The evidence was/were against her. (comment)
  • People in general has/have been very nice to me. (comment)

Table of Contents

exercise 4 the following excerpt contains eight agreement mistakes find them and correct them
Exercise 4.The following excerpt contains eight agreement mistakes. Find them and correct them.

In this chapter, the analysis of gather, which was chosen because of its physically concrete properties, were presented. Gather is one of the verbs which belongs to the gathering up frame in FrameNet. The frame describes a situation where a Subject gathers Objects, that is, bring them together at one and the same place. The data suggests that, most commonly, gathering is performed intentionally by a human Subject. Gather is frequently extended to mental usages. The analysis have shown that extensions into the mental domain accounts for almost one-quarter of the data. The most frequent usages of mental gathering is ‘understand’ and ‘believe’. Only human Subjects appear in connection with mental gathering. Hence, humanness seem to be a prerequisite for gather to be used as a mental verb. Since there are no evidence in the data of organisations as Subjects in cases of mental gathering, it looks as if it is not possible to transfer the human ability to draw conclusions from information gathered to a metonymic substitute. The extension from physical to mental gathering are motivated by experience-based similarities between gathering, on the one hand, concrete entities and, on the other, knowledge and facts so as to reach an understanding of a subject. (key)

Table of Contents

exercise 5 find and correct all the agreement mistakes in the following excerpt
Exercise 5.Find and correct all the agreement mistakes in the following excerpt.

The basic starting point of the current work is the hypothesis that the frame to which a verb is linked determine how easily the verb can be extended to mental usages. In other words, extended usages, mental usages in particular, has been the main focus of the thesis. The analyses has aimed at bringing light upon the extent to which the six verbs chosen for the study – acquire, buy, gather, grasp, receive and seize – is used as mental verbs and how much this use is restricted by the frames associated with the verbs. Frames are important tools that helps humans organise and structure their knowledge. They provide a mental framework for the action, process, state or event depicted by the verb and assists in the interpretation of words, concepts and sentences. Hence, the background knowledge contained in frames co-operate with the context at hand to select the most appropriate interpretation of an utterance. In this final chapter, the results of the analyses in chapters 3-8 is summarised. Each of the verbs are addressed in turn and some of the general conclusions that can be made is indicated. The chapter is concluded with some suggestions for future research. (key)

Table of Contents

exercise 6 find and correct all the agreement mistakes in the following excerpt
Exercise 6.Find and correct all the agreement mistakes in the following excerpt.

Based on the hypothesis that the frame to which a verb is linked influence how easily that verb can be extended into the mental domain, the aim of this thesis is to carry out a lexico-semantic analysis of the six verbs acquire, buy, gather, grasp, receive and seize. These verbs were chosen because they can express physical as well as mental acquisition and because they are linked to frames of varying complexity. Frames contain not only linguistic (syntactic and semantic) information, but also lan­guage users’ knowledge of how society and its values affects the use of verbs. The complexity of frames involve, among other things, the number and nature of necessary participants, circumstances under which the action may be successfully carried out and institutionalised rules imposed or sanctioned by society. Prior to the analyses, it was assumed in this work that the verbs gather, grasp and seize are used as mental verbs to a higher extent than acquire, buy and receive. This is so, because the simplicity of the former verbs’ frames facilitate meaning extension from the physical to the mental domain. Specific questions addressed in the study are: (i) To what extent is the verbs used as mental verbs? (ii) What other usages does the verb display? (iii) What are the relative frequency of different usages for each verb? (iv) Is any of the verbs better suited to express mental acquisition than others? And, if so, in what way? (key)

Table of Contents

slide12

Exercise 7.Write a short academic abstract – approximately 200 words – introducing a topic of your own choice. Before handing it in you should receive feedback from a fellow student. NB. Feedback should be sent in as well.

Table of Contents

exercise 1 question 1 key
Exercise 1. Question 1. Key.

If different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it (= the subject) habitually obliges us to think about.

COMMENT:

When the subject of the sentence is in the third person singular – he, she or it – the present tense verb form should also be in the third person, i.e. you need to add an –s to the verb.

NB. Be and have have irregular s-markers: is and has respectively

Exercise 1

exercise 1 question 2 key
Exercise 1. Question 2. Key.

There have been many proposals for regulating the right of public access, but none of them has been put into law.

COMMENT:

There in this sentence refers to proposals, which is the real subject of the sentence. Since proposals is in the plural, the verb form also needs to be in the plural.

Exercise 1

exercise 1 question 3 key
Exercise 1. Question 3. Key.

That Chinese people have trouble with English sounds because the shapeof their mouths (= the subject) is different is a language myth.

COMMENT:

In this sentence the shape of their mouths as a whole is the subject. However, it is the shape – singular – that is the main word and therefore the verb needs to be in the third person singular.

Exercise 1

exercise 1 question 4 key
Exercise 1. Question 4. Key.

The research his early writings inspired (= the subject) has left us able to say with some confidence that …

COMMENT:

The research his early writings inspired constitutes the subject in this sentence, where his early writings inspired refers to the main word research. This word is in the singular, hence the verb form also needs to be in the singular.

Exercise 1

exercise 1 question 5 key
Exercise 1. Question 5. Key.

Educational innovation and other developments affecting the world population (= the subject), for example, the Chinese government’s policy of one baby per family, were also factored in.

COMMENT:

The verb refers back to BOTH educational innovation AND other developments, therefore it needs to be in the plural.

Exercise 1

exercise 2 question 1 key
Exercise 2. Question 1. Key.

Everybody present was in favour of the suggestion.

COMMENT:

Everybody is in the singular (it may be read as every body), even though its meaning is plural. The same goes for everyone.

Exercise 2

exercise 2 question 2 key
Exercise 2. Question 2. Key.

The analyses were carefully done.

COMMENT:

The singular analysis and the plural analyses are similar. Make sure that you know the difference.

Exercise 2

exercise 2 question 3 key
Exercise 2. Question 3. Key.

Where on earth are the scissors?

COMMENT:

Some words denoting objects consisting of two parts are in the plural. Scissors, together with, for example, binoculars, tweezers, pliers, pants, pincers, tongs belong to this group.

Exercise 2

exercise 2 question 4 key
Exercise 2. Question 4. Key.

A large number of students (= the subject) do not want to do the exam on Friday.

COMMENT:

A large number of students is to be understood as ”more than a few students.” The verb needs to be in the plural, even if the main word of the subject (number) is in the singular.

Exercise 2

exercise 2 question 5 key
Exercise 2. Question 5. Key.

The number of students at the university is increasing.

COMMENT:

This sentence may be compared to the previous one. Here number does not mean ”more than a few.” Instead it refers to a figure, which is in the singular. There is thus a difference between anumberof something (= plural), and thenumber of something (= singular).

Exercise 2

exercise 2 question 6 key
Exercise 2. Question 6. Key.

50 per cent of the debt has not yet been paid.

COMMENT:

When dealing with percentages it is the noun following the figure that decides whether the verb should be in the singular or in the plural. The noun debt is in the singular, hence the verb must be in the singular. Compare: 50 per cent of the apples were rotten.

Exercise 2

exercise 2 question 7 key
Exercise 2. Question 7. Key.

Either Keith or Kate is coming to the seminar.

COMMENT:

The construction either or containing two singular entities (Keith + Kate) requires a verb in the singular. This sentence may be compared to Either the Andersons or the Johnsons are going to help you which combines two plural entities.

NB. In sentences combining a singular and a plural entity it is the last noun which determines the verb form: Either Marie (singular) or Monica and Chris (plural)are going to help you.

Exercise 2

exercise 2 question 8 key
Exercise 2. Question 8. Key.

Kate, as well as Keith, has given notice.

COMMENT:

Even if Keith has also given his notice, the commas surrounding this information make it additional. Thus, Kate is the subject of the sentence and determines the verb form.

Exercise 2

exercise 3 question 1 key
Exercise 3. Question 1. Key.

The government is/are discussing new measures for dealing with racism.

COMMENT:

The choice between the singular and the plural verb forms depends to a large extent on whether the government, in this case, is seen as a whole unit or as consisting of individual members.

Other so-called collective nouns, e.g. family and committee, are treated in the same way.

Exercise 3

exercise 3 question 2 key
Exercise 3. Question 2. Key.

The statistics show that this trend has gained momentum.

COMMENT:

Statistics as science or as a subject is always in the singular: Statistics is a difficult subject. However, in the sentence above it is the resultat, i.e. the actual figures, which is presented. Therefore, the plural form must be used.

Other similar ”ics”-subjects treated in the same way are mathematics, physics and economics.

Exercise 3

exercise 3 question 3 key
Exercise 3. Question 3. Key.

The evidence was against her.

COMMENT:

In some languages evidence is semantically understood as a plural word. In English, however, it is always in the singular. If you for some reason want to single out specific evidence the word piece must be used: This was a significant piece of evidence. / These are controversial pieces of evidence.

Other abstract nouns behaving in a similar way are, e.g., information, advice, business, news and furniture.

Exercise 3

exercise 3 question 4 key
Exercise 3. Question 4. Key.

People in general have been very nice to me.

COMMENT:

People is a word in the plural although there is no plural-s attached to it. Another word treated in the same way is police.

NB. People may occur with a plural-s if the word refers to different groups of people: There are many different peoples in Europe (i.e., people with different nationalities).

Exercise 3

exercise 4 key click on the bold faced verbs for a comment
Exercise 4.Key.Click on the bold-faced verbs for a comment.

In this chapter, the analysis of gather, which was chosen because of its physically concrete properties, was presented. Gather is one of the verbs which belong to the gathering up frame in FrameNet. The frame describes a situation where a Subject gathers Objects, that is, bringsthem together at one and the same place. The data suggests that, most commonly, gathering is performed intentionally by a human Subject. Gather is frequently extended to mental usages. The analysis has shown that extensions into the mental domain accountfor almost one-quarter of the data. The most frequent usages of mental gathering are ‘understand’ and ‘believe’. Only human Subjects appear in connection with mental gathering. Hence, humanness seemsto be a prerequisite for gather to be used as a mental verb. Since there isno evidence in the data of organisations as Subjects in cases of mental gathering, it looks as if it is not possible to transfer the human ability to draw conclusions from information gathered to a metonymic substitute. The extension from physical to mental gathering ismotivated by experience-based similarities between gathering, on the one hand, concrete entities and, on the other, knowledge and facts so as to reach an understanding of a subject.

Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 1
Exercise 4. Verb comment 1.

In this chapter, the analysis of gather, which was chosen because of its physically concrete properties, was presented.

COMMENT:

The head noun of this sentence is the analysis, therefore the verb must be in the singular.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 2
Exercise 4. Verb comment 2.

Gather is one of the verbs which belong to the gathering up frame in FrameNet.

COMMENT:

The head noun is verbs, which means that a plural verb form is needed.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 3
Exercise 4. Verb comment 3.

The frame describes a situation where a Subject gathers Objects, that is, brings them together at one and the same place.

COMMENT:

Since a Subject is the head noun of this sentence, a singular verb form is needed.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 4
Exercise 4. Verb comment 4.

The analysis has shown that extensions into the mental domain account for almost one-quarter of the data.

COMMENT:

Account refers back to extensions, hence the plural form must be used.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 5
Exercise 4. Verb comment 5.

The most frequent usages of mental gathering are ‘understand’ and ‘believe’.

COMMENT:

Are refers to usages which is in the plural.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 6
Exercise 4. Verb comment 6.

Hence, humannessseemsto be a prerequisite for gather to be used as a mental verb.

COMMENT:

Seems refers to the singular subject humanness.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 7
Exercise 4. Verb comment 7.

Since there is no evidence in the data of organisations as Subjects in cases of mental gathering…

COMMENT:

Remember that evidence is a singular noun. See Exercise 3:3.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 4 verb comment 8
Exercise 4. Verb comment 8.

The extension from physical to mental gathering ismotivated by experience-based similarities …..

COMMENT:

Is must show agreement with the singular noun the extension.

Key Exercise 4

exercise 5 key click on the bold faced verbs for a comment
Exercise 5. Key.Click on the bold-faced verbs for a comment.

The basic starting point of the current work is the hypothesis that the frame to which a verb is linked determineshow easily the verb can be extended to mental usages. In other words, extended usages, mental usages in particular, havebeen the main focus of the thesis. The analyses haveaimed at bringing light upon the extent to which the six verbs chosen for the study – acquire, buy, gather, grasp, receive and seize – areused as mental verbs and how much this use is restricted by the frames associated with the verbs. Frames are important tools that helphumans organise and structure their knowledge. They provide a mental framework for the action, process, state or event depicted by the verb and assistin the interpretation of words, concepts and sentences. Hence, the background knowledge contained in frames co-operateswith the context at hand to select the most appropriate interpretation of an utterance. In this final chapter, the results of the analyses in chapters 3-8 aresummarised. Each of the verbs isaddressed in turn and some of the general conclusions that can be made areindicated. The chapter is concluded with some suggestions for future research.

Exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 1
Exercise 5. Verb comment 1.

The basic starting point of the current work is the hypothesis that the frame to which a verb is linked determines how easily the verb can be extended to mental usages.

COMMENT:

Since the verb refers back to the singular word the frame, it must be in the singular.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 2
Exercise 5. Verb comment 2.

In other words, extended usages, mental usages in particular, have been the main focus of the thesis.

COMMENT:

The verb must agree with the plural subject usages.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 3
Exercise 5. Verb comment 3.

The analyseshave aimed at bringing light upon…

COMMENT:

Observe that analyses is the plural form of analysis. Hence, the plural verb form. Compare Exercise 4:1.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 4
Exercise 5. Verb comment 4.

… the extent to which the six verbs chosen for the study – acquire, buy, gather, grasp, receive and seize – are used as mental verbs …

COMMENT:

The subject that are refers back to is the phrase the six verbs chosen for the study, in which the six verbs is the head.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 5
Exercise 5. Verb comment 5.

Frames are important tools that help humans organise and structure their knowledge.

COMMENT:

Help must agree with the plural tools.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 6
Exercise 5. Verb comment 6.

They provide a mental framework for the action, process, state or event depicted by the verb and assist in the interpretation of words, concepts and sentences.

COMMENT:

The subject that assist must agree with is they.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 7
Exercise 5. Verb comment 7.

Hence, the background knowledge contained in framesco-operates with the context at hand…

COMMENT:

The whole phrase the background knowledge contained in frames is the subject which must agree with co-operates. Since the background knowledge is the head of the subject, the verb must be in the singular.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 8
Exercise 5. Verb comment 8.

In this final chapter, the results of the analyses in chapters 3-8are summarised.

COMMENT:

Are must agree with the head word (the results) of the subject, which is in the plural.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 9
Exercise 5. Verb comment 9.

Each of the verbsis addressed in turn…

COMMENT:

Even though each (the head of the subject) semantically means ‘all’, it is grammatically treated as a singular pronoun. Hence the singular verb form.

Key exercise 5

exercise 5 verb comment 10
Exercise 5. Verb comment 10.

… some of the general conclusions that can be madeare indicated.

COMMENT:

A plural subject requires a plural verb.

Key exercise 5

exercise 6 key click on the bold faced verbs for a comment
Exercise 6. Key.Click on the bold-faced verbs for a comment.

Based on the hypothesis that the frame to which a verb is linked influenceshow easily that verb can be extended into the mental domain, the aim of this thesis is to carry out a lexico-semantic analysis of the six verbs acquire, buy, gather, grasp, receive and seize. These verbs were chosen because they can express physical as well as mental acquisition and because they are linked to frames of varying complexity. Frames contain not only linguistic (syntactic and semantic) information, but also language users’ knowledge of how society and its values affectthe use of verbs. The complexity of frames involves, among other things, the number and nature of necessary participants, circumstances under which the action may be successfully carried out and institutionalised rules imposed or sanctioned by society. Prior to the analyses, it was assumed in this work that the verbs gather, grasp and seize are used as mental verbs to a higher extent than acquire, buy and receive. This is so, because the simplicity of the former verbs’ frames facilitatesmeaning extension from the physical to the mental domain. Specific questions addressed in the study are: (i) To what extent are the verbs used as mental verbs? (ii) What other usages dothe verb display? (iii) What isthe relative frequency of different usages for each verb? (iv) Areany of the verbs better suited to express mental acquisition than others? And, if so, in what way?

Exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 1
Exercise 6. Verb comment 1.

Based on the hypothesis that the frame to which a verb is linkedinfluences how easily that verb can be extended into the mental domain ….

COMMENT:

The head word of the subject is the frame. It requires a verb in the singular.

Key exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 2
Exercise 6. Verb comment 2.

Frames contain not only linguistic (syntactic and semantic) information, but also language users’ knowledge of how society and its valuesaffect the use of verbs.

COMMENT:

Here the subject consists of two co-ordinated items, therefore the verb must be in the plural.

Key exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 3
Exercise 6. Verb comment 3.

The complexity of framesinvolves, among other things, the number and nature of necessary participants,….

COMMENT:

The head word of the subject is the singular phrase the complexity.

Key exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 4
Exercise 6. Verb comment 4.

This is so, because the simplicity of the former verbs’ framesfacilitates meaning extension from the physical to the mental domain.

COMMENT:

The head of the subject (the simplicity) is in the singular. The verb must agree with it.

Key exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 5
Exercise 6. Verb comment 5.

To what extent arethe verbs used as mental verbs?

COMMENT:

A plural subject (the verbs) requires a plural verb.

Key exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 6
Exercise 6. Verb comment 6.

What other usagesdo the verb display?

COMMENT:

The plural do agrees with the plural subject.

Key exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 7
Exercise 6. Verb comment 7.

What isthe relative frequency of different usages for each verb?

COMMENT:

The head of the subject (the relative frequency) requires a singular verb form.

Key exercise 6

exercise 6 verb comment 8
Exercise 6. Verb comment 8.

Areany of the verbs better suited to express mental acquisition than others?

COMMENT:

Any + a plural noun requires a verb in the plural. However, if a number is added before the plural word verbs, the singular verb form must be used: Is any of the two verbs better suited……?

Key exercise 6

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