Using Verbs Correctly Subject/Verb agreement
The verb in a sentence is closely related to its subject and must have a matching form. When the subject and the verb are correctly matched, we say that they agree. The most common mistake in “matching” subject and verb is number. A singular subject requires a singular form of the verb and a plural subject requires a plural form of the verb.
Example 1: Ms. McDaniels, our English teacher, doesn’t like whining. Ms. McDaniels is singular and doesn’t is the singular form of do. Example 2: Ms. McDaniels and Ms. Fischer, our English teachers, don’tlike whining. Now, the subject is plural and requires the plural form of the verb do.
This seems easy; so, what’s the big deal? Glad you asked! The trouble begins when you are dealing with compound subjects and with indefinite pronouns as subjects. Compound=More than one- usually joined by the word AND.
Examples: Jacob and Christina have finished their homework. Not has because has is singular. Someone was guilty of the crime. Not were which is plural because “someone” is singular.
Errors in agreement can also occur because words in a prepositional phrase are mistaken for the subject of the verb. Examples: The many lights on the Christmas tree make it look very festive. Why not makes? The subject of the sentence is lights, and lights is plural. Lights make not lights makes - right? 2. The houses on my block have two stories. Why not has? The word houses is the subject, not block, so you need a plural verb.
A few practice sentences… 1. The principals of each school (award, awards) certificates to honor students. 2. My favorite collection of poems (is, are) Where the Sidewalk Ends. 3. One of the chairs (look, looks) unstable. 4. Nobody (want, wants) to admit that the teacher is right. The launches of the space shuttle (attract, attracts) the interest of people throughout the world.