Subject verb agreement is a crucial aspect of grammar that ensures the clarity and coherence of a sentence. It refers to the grammatical concordance between the subject and verb of a sentence, where the verb must agree with the number and person of the subject. However, subject verb agreement problems often arise, causing confusion and weakening the impact of the message. In this article, we will discuss some of the common subject verb agreement problems and how to avoid them.
1. Singular vs. Plural Subjects
One of the most common subject verb agreement problems is when the subject and verb do not match in their number. A singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject requires a plural verb. For example,
Incorrect: The group of tourists was having fun.
Correct: The group of tourists were having fun.
In the above example, the verb “was” is singular, but the subject “group of tourists” is plural. Therefore, we need to use the plural verb “were” to match the subject.
2. Collective Nouns
Collective nouns refer to a group of individuals or things, but they are considered as a single entity. Examples of collective nouns are team, jury, family, committee, etc. When a collective noun acts as the subject of the sentence, it can take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on the context.
Incorrect: The team are playing well.
Correct: The team is playing well.
In the above example, “team” is a collective noun, and we need to use the singular verb “is” because the team is considered as a single entity.
3. Indefinite Pronouns
Indefinite pronouns refer to a person or thing that is not specific, such as anyone, anything, everybody, nobody, something, etc. When these pronouns act as the subject of a sentence, they usually take a singular verb.
Incorrect: Everybody were enjoying the party.
Correct: Everybody was enjoying the party.
In the above example, “everybody” is an indefinite pronoun and requires a singular verb “was.”
4. Compound Subjects
A compound subject is formed when two or more subjects are joined by the conjunctions “and,” “or,” “nor,” etc. When the compound subject is plural, the verb must also be plural. However, when the subjects are different in nature, the verb agrees with the closest subject.
Incorrect: Tom and his friends is going to the movie.
Correct: Tom and his friends are going to the movie.
In the above example, we need to use the plural verb “are” because the compound subject “Tom and his friends” is plural.
Subject verb agreement is a fundamental principle of grammar that can make or break the clarity of a sentence. By avoiding common subject verb agreement problems, you can ensure that your writing is grammatically correct and easy to understand. Always remember to match the number and person of the subject with the verb. With practice, you can master the art of subject verb agreement and improve your writing skills significantly.