Tag Archives: subject-verb agreement

Finding the Subject With “There is” or “Here is” Sentences

There is a million different reasons why you should finish your assignments as soon as possible.

Here is the recipes for the cookbook you are compiling for our children’s school fundraiser.

I see and hear sentences like these frequently. They contain an agreement problem. The subjects of the sentences are reasons and recipes, respectively. Both are plurals. But the introductory parts, There is and Here is, are both singular. You’re going to need There are and Here are. You can also use There’s or Here’s if the subject is singular.

When sentences start with There is, There are, Here is, Here are, the subject is always going to be the first noun following the introductory clause. The subjects are never There or Here. Therefore, if you use this construction, find the subject by looking at the first noun after it and use There is or There are and Here is or Here are accordingly. Easy, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

What’s Wrong With These Sentences?

PICT0014_1.jpg

© Judi Birnberg                     Here’s a collage I made when I was 16.

There is a million different reasons why you should finish your assignments as soon as possible.

Here is/Here’s the recipes for the cookbook your are compiling for our children’s school fundraiser.

I see and hear sentences like these frequently. They contain an agreement problem. The subjects of the sentences are reasons and recipes, respectively. Both are plurals. But the introductory parts, There is and Here is, are both singular. You’re going to need There are and Here are. You can also use There’s or Here’s if the subject is singular.

Incidentally, when sentences start with There is, There are, Here is, Here are, the subject is always going to be the first noun following those introductory clauses. The subjects are never There or Here. Therefore, if you use this construction, find the subject by looking at the first noun after it and use There is or There are and Here is or Here are accordingly. Easy, right?

2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

A Common Agreement Problem

© Judi Birnberg

© Judi Birnberg

How often have you seen or heard the following construction?

There’s three reasons to buy your tickets early.

Omit the contraction and you will see you are saying There is three reasons to buy your tickets early. There is three?

To restore agreement to your sentence, you need to write There are three reasons…. Making that into a contraction, however, is awkward: There’re three reasons…. Ick.

Starting sentences with There is or There are (or Here is or Here are) is a weak construction. Better to write Buy your tickets early for three reasons—and then list them.

1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Subject-Verb Agreement Quiz

Here are five sentences from the book I used in all my business writing seminars, The Bare Essentials, by Norton, Green and Barale.
Before you take the quiz, remember that the only word that adds and makes a subject plural is AND. Decide if the sentences are correct as written or if a problem exists with subject-verb agreement. Explanations follow the sentences.

1. A handful of companies dominate the American cereal industry.
2. Have either of the teams won a series yet?
3. Experience in programming, together with a willingness to work hard and an ability to get along with others, are required.
4. Absolutely everyone, my girlfriend and my mother included, not to mention my closest friends, have advised me not to pursue a musical career.
5. It is not necessarily true that statements made about one identical twin applies with equal validity to the other.

All those sentences are incorrect. Here are the explanations:

1. The subject is “handful,” so the verb has to be “dominates.” “Of companies” is a prepositional phrase; the subject of a sentence is never found in a prepositional phrase</em>, even though most of them contain a noun (and sometime a pronoun) at the end that may look like a subject. But they never are.

2. “Either of the teams” refers to one team or the other but not both. “Of the teams” is a prepositional phrase. The singular subject is the pronoun “either.” The verb must be “Has.”

3. The subject is “Experience,” so the verb must be “is required.” After “Experience,” the sentence is packed with prepositional phrases and none of the nouns in them can be part of the subject.

4. The subject is “everyone.” That is always singular, so the verb has to be “has advised.”

5. The subject is “statements,” a plural, so the verb must be “apply.”

How did you do? Write me if you have questions.

2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Only “And” Adds

images

 

“And” is the conjunction we use to add information. However, sometimes we use other phrases, such as “along with,” “in addition to,” “as well as,” “with,” “including” and “together with.” These seem to add information but, in fact, don’t.

Why do you care? Whether you use “and” or one of the other phrases determines whether the sentence is singular or plural. Look at the following two sentences:

1. Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane work at the Daily Planet.

2. Clark Kent, together with Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, works at the Daily Planet.

That “and’ in the first sentence makes the subject plural; it includes all three people Therefore, the verb also has to be plural. In the second sentence, “together with” does not make Jimmy and Lois part of the subject. Only Clark is the subject; therefore, you need the singular verb works.

Remember, I don’t make up the rules; I just teach them.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

What’s the Correct Verb?

imagesHere are a few sentences asking you to decide which verb is correct:

1. Each of the Congress members in the border districts (is, are) being polled on the immigration proposal.

2. A list of the employees of the Internal Audit Department requesting flexible vacation days (is, are) posted in Sheridan’s office.

3. Every member of the committee reviewing the bylaws (needs, need) to send in recommendations by next Friday.

Finished? The correct answer in each sentence is the first choice. Verbs have to agree with their subjects—singular with singular, plural with plural.

In the first sentence, the subject is “Each.” The next two pieces of the sentence before the verb are prepositional phrases, and the subject of a sentence is never found in a prepositional phrase. “Members” and “districts” are objects of their preceding prepositions but neither can be the subject.

The subject in the second sentence is “list,” for the same reason, as is “member” in the third sentence.

If you are not sure what your subject is, temporarily cross out the prepositional phrases. You’ll then be down to the skeleton of your sentence and the verb will become apparent.

How did you do?

3 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Singular or Plural?

images-1

The following words often cause problems with subject-verb agreement: EVERYBODY, EVERYONE, EVERYTHING. However, if you look at the end of each word, you’ll see that each one is singular. Therefore, you’ll need a singular verb to go with one of these words if it is your subject. The same rule applies for the ANY— words and the NO— words. (“No one” is always spelled as two words.)

Everyone in the meetings is coming with a laptop.

Anything you’ve heard about his children is likely to be true.

Nobody at the hotel has heard about the robbery on the second floor.

The rule has always been that the pronoun associated with these words needs to be singular as well: “Everyone attending the meeting needs to bring (his, her, his or her) laptop.” All of those choices are either awkward or exclusionary. For that reason, we most often hear “Everyone needs to bring their laptop.” It’s only a matter of time until that becomes standard English. However, an easy fix is to skip that pronoun entirely and just have the people bring “a laptop. Problem solved.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

What Kind of Word Nerd Are You?

images

I found this quiz posted at http://www.ragan.com, written by Laura Hale Brockway . You probably can guess my score (and I’m damned proud of it!).

What kind of word nerd are you?

Step 1. Answer the following yes/no questions. (Be honest. This is a judgment-free zone.)

1. Do you subscribe to one or more style guides (or have one or more style guides on your desk)?

2. Do you catch typos all around you, even when you’re not looking for them?

3. Do you find yourself correcting the grammar in the books you read to your kids? (“Junie B. Jones” is the worst.)

4. Can you quote from “Eats, Shoots and Leaves?”  [Note from Judi: Yes, but I also wrote to the editor because the book contains about 10 major errors, most not attributable to the author’s English upbringing.]

5. Have you had more than one heated argument about the use of the serial (Oxford) comma?

6. Does seeing 1990’s or 30’s drive you to drink?

7. Do you feel an immediate sense of camaraderie with anyone who uses “comprise” correctly?

8. Can you spell “minuscule,” “inadvertent,” “supersede,” and “ophthalmologist” correctly? (Could you have done so before I just showed them to you?)

9. Is the hyphen your least favorite punctuation mark?

10. Do you use the word “decimate” correctly?

11. Do you giggle when you end a sentence with a preposition and know why it’s acceptable to do so?

12. Do people refuse to play Words with Friends or Scrabble with you?

Step 2. Count the questions to which you answered “yes.”

Word Nerd Elite—You answered “yes” to 10 to 12 questions.

You are in the upper echelon of word nerdiness. Very likely you are the primary person in your department or company whom others ask when they have a grammar or punctuation question. You may have even played dueling style guides with a co-worker. Finding typos on signs or in movie credits might feel like a victory for you. Welcome to the club. We meet for drinks every month on penultimate Wednesdays.

Word Nerd Moderate—You answered “yes” to 5 to 9 questions.

You exhibit a few of the telltale signs of word nerdiness. You probably know and use one style guide very well. Though you know the arguments for and against its use, you’re lukewarm on the serial comma. You have a pretty easy time keeping your composure when playing Scrabble.

Word Nerd Lite (or should that be light?)—You answered “yes” to 0 to 4 questions.

Other than one or two minor eccentricities, you’re not really a word nerd at all. You leave it to others to find typos and argue about word usage. Perhaps you’ve read “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” and you remember the joke about the panda. You haven’t quite memorized your style guide, but you have a few key sections highlighted.

Good job!

images-1

 

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

The Grammar Pirate

image

Leave a comment

February 21, 2014 · 4:22 PM

Well, Is They?

 

This is from an ad in the current issue of Westways, the Auto Club magazine.
IMG_0286

1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Crazy English

If you haven’t noticed, English has rules that sometimes do not apply.  Here’s an example:

It would be grammatically correct to say, “Am I not a smart person?” It does sound rather stiff and formal, but you can see that the grammar is right. However, when my son was about two, he would joke and say, “Amn’t I a smart smartypants?”  Technically, he was being grammatically correct: “Am I not a smart smartypants?”  So why should we say, “Aren’t I smart?” It makes no sense.  We don’t say, “Are I not smart?”

In all my years of teaching English as a second language, I marveled at how any of my students were able to master the intricacies of our language. In fact, how do native speakers ever learn it?  We are all smartypants!

2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Subject-Verb Agreement

If you can’t figure out what verb you need for your subject, here’s a handy hint:

The subject of a sentence is never in a prepositional phrase.

Why is that handy? Sometimes the subject and verb might be separated by one or more prepositional phrases, and it’s easy to mistake the noun in a prepositional phrase for the subject and choose the wrong verb.  (Almost every prepositional phrase ends in a noun.)

For instance:

The thought of lying on the couch after working for many long hours (is/are) appealing.

The prepositional phrases are of lying, on the couch, after working, and  for many long hours.

Every one of those ends with a noun (and yes, working is a noun in this case—it’s called a gerund, in case you were dying to know; when you can put the words “the act of” before a word that looks like an —ing verb, it’s a noun (gerund)).  But not one of those nouns is the subject.  The subject is thought, at the beginning of the sentence, so the verb has to be the singular is.  But you can see how some people might think the subject is hours and then use the plural verb are.

Leave a comment

March 17, 2013 · 10:33 PM

A Typo in The New Yorker!

In my decades of subscribing to The New Yorker (yes, “The” is part of the title), I don’t recall ever coming across a typo.  But the December 3 issue contains the following sentence:

“Several nights a week, a group of sixteen strangers gather around his dining-room table to eat delicacies he has handpicked and prepared for them….”

The subject of that sentence is “group,” which is singular, even though a group is made up of more than one person.  It’s called a collective noun.  “Of sixteen strangers” is a prepositional phrase, and although every prepositional phrase contains—usually—a noun (in this case “strangers”) and sometimes a pronoun, that noun or pronoun in the prepositional phrase will never be the subject of the sentence.

Therefore, the correct verb to go with the subject “group” should be “gathers.”  A group gathers.

Easy, right?

The article is called “Toques From Underground” and focuses on a thirty-year-old chef in Los Angeles who cooks dinners you might or might not consider gourmet in his tiny apartment kitchen.  Supposedly, it’s the toughest reservation in town.  Based on the dishes this article highlighted, I think I am going to give it a miss.  Anyone hungry for salted oak leaves served with pine broth and matsutake mushrooms?  On the other hand, you can pay what you like when you leave.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized