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?

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What’s Wrong With These Sentences?

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© 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?

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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.

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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.

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Only “And” Adds

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“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.

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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?

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Singular or Plural?

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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.

 

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