Subject verb agreement is a fundamental aspect of English grammar that ensures the coherence and clarity of written communication. However, it can also be a challenging concept to grasp for non-native speakers and beginner writers. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of subject verb agreement, including its definition, rules, and common mistakes to avoid.
What is Subject Verb Agreement?
Subject verb agreement refers to the grammatical agreement between the subject and the verb in a sentence. The subject is the noun or pronoun that performs the action, while the verb indicates the action or state of being. The agreement between these two elements ensures that the sentence is grammatically correct, concise, and easy to read.
For example, consider the following sentence:
”The cat jumps on the table.”
In this sentence, ”cat” is the subject, and ”jumps” is the verb. The singular subject agrees with the third-person singular verb, creating a grammatically correct sentence.
Rules for Subject Verb Agreement
To correctly apply subject verb agreement, it is crucial to understand and follow a few basic rules. Here are the most important rules to keep in mind:
1. Singular Subjects require Singular Verbs
When the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb must also be in the singular form.
Example: The dog barks at the mailman.
2. Plural Subjects require Plural Verbs
When the subject of a sentence is plural, the verb must also be in the plural form.
Example: The dogs bark at the mailman.
3. Indefinite pronouns require Singular or Plural Verbs
Indefinite pronouns, such as ”everyone,” ”anybody,” or ”none,” can be singular or plural, depending on the context.
Example: Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting.
Example: None of the attendees are from out of town.
4. Compound Subjects take Plural Verbs
When two or more subjects are connected by ”and,” the verb is in the plural form.
Example: Tom and Jerry play basketball on Saturdays.
5. Collective Nouns take Singular or Plural Verbs
Collective nouns, such as ”team” or ”family,” can be singular or plural, depending on whether the group is seen as a single entity or a collection of individuals.
Example: The family is going on vacation.
Example: The family members are packing their bags.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Even with the rules in mind, it’s easy to make common mistakes in subject verb agreement. Here are some of the most frequent errors to avoid:
1. Confusing Noun Phrases with Subjects
Noun phrases, such as ”the fact that” or ”the idea of,” are not subjects and do not affect subject verb agreement.
Example: The fact that he was late doesn`t excuse his behavior.
2. Ignoring the Compound Subject Rule
When using ”and,” it’s easy to forget that the subject is plural, and the verb should be, as well.
Example: The chair and table was in the living room (incorrect – should be ”were”)
3. Confusing Singular Subjects with Singular Indefinite Pronouns
Singular indefinite pronouns, such as ”anyone” or ”someone,” always take singular verbs, even if they sound like a plural noun.
Example: Someone is knocking on the door (correct)
Example: Someone are knocking on the door (incorrect)
Understanding subject verb agreement is vital for effective communication in written English. By following the basic rules and avoiding common mistakes, writers can improve the coherence and clarity of their sentences, making them more enjoyable and accessible to readers.