A weekly grammar tip created by Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
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|Subject/Verb Agreement: Knowing
by Nick Jobe
Subject/verb agreement errors occur when the subject of a sentence does not match in number (singular, plural) with the verb. There are many causes for this type of error; one of these is unfamiliarity with prepositional phrases. This grammar tip will discuss why knowing prepositions or prepositional phrases will help with subject/verb agreement.
The first thing you need to know is how to spot prepositions. The number of prepositions is high, and knowing what they are can be difficult. However, the following is a link to a list of common prepositions that can increase your familiarity with this part of speech: http://www.writingfix.com/wordlists/List_of_prepositions.pdf.
If you can identify prepositions, finding prepositional phrases is much easier. A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition followed by a noun phrase that is known as the object of the preposition. In the examples below, the preposition is italicized, and the noun phrase is underlined.
Ex. Around the mountain
Ex. Into the river
Ex. In the sky
Ex. During a rainstorm
Ex. Because of the pink flamingos
Now that you know what prepositional phrases might look like, it’s time to discuss their placement in a sentence.
Prepositions can fall anywhere in a sentence; the ones that are usually problematic (in terms making subject/verb agreement issues) are the ones that come between the subject and the verb. The following is an example of a correct sentence with a prepositional phrase between the subject and verb:
Ex. The Martian in the green hat runs from the spaceship.
The subject of the sentence is Martian. The verb is runs. The prepositional phrase is in the green hat. Because the Martian is singular, the verb must be singular, too. The tip here is to drop the prepositional phrase(s) from the sentence to leave just the subject and the verb.
Ex. The Martian runs from the spaceship.
One way that prepositional phrases can get tricky when they fall in between the subject and the verb is when the subject is singular, but the prepositional phrase has a plural object.
Ex. The gelatin in the cardboard boxes is strawberry-flavored.
In the cardboard boxes is a prepositional phrase that falls in between the subject, gelatin, and the verb, is. Drop the prepositional phrase out to identify the subject (gelatin). Boxes is the plural object of the preposition. You might get confused and put the verb are instead of is, because are agrees with boxes. However, boxes isn’t the subject; gelatin is.
A preposition is a word that relates a noun or pronoun to another word in a sentence.
Prepositions include some of the most commonly used words in the English language, such as in, of, as, like, for, and to. Prepositions express relationships like location, direction, and classification.
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Nick Jobe
In addition to our website and our handout on Subject/Verb Agreement, we also recommend the following website: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/sv_agr.htm. It goes into more detail on subject/verb agreement.
|Test Your Knowledge
by Nick Jobe
Determine whether the following sentences’ subjects and verbs agree.
1) The donkeys in the yard is sleeping.
2) The boys on the front porch are selling lemonade.
3) The teachers from the elementary school in the downtown area of the city is tired.
4) The banana-nut bread in the ovens smell wonderful.
1) Incorrect; The donkeys in the yard are sleeping.
2) Correct; boys and are agree.
3) Incorrect; The teachers from the elementary school in the downtown area of the city are tired.
4) Incorrect; The banana-nut bread in the ovens smells wonderful.
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