English grammar

Module 3, Verbs, Lesson 14:

Challenges in Verb Agreement

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English grammar

Challenge 1: Compound Subjects

If the subjects are joined by and, you always use a plural verb. (Hint: one and one are always two.)

Mystery and fantasy are my two favorite genres.
My mother and my father are both home from work.

The exception to this is when and joins two nouns, but they are considered a single object.

Macaroni and cheese is my favorite after school snack. (It's not that macaroni is one of my favorites and cheese is my other. Macaroni and cheese is the name of a single dish.)

If the subjects are joined by or or nor, you match the verb to the last subject in the list.

My parents or my sister is in the kitchen.
My sister or my parents are in the kitchen.

Challenge 2: Hard to Find Subjects

Sometimes the subject of a sentence can be hard to find.

In a question, the subject usually comes between parts of the verb. To find the subject, keep all the words and turn it into a declarative sentence.

Did you decide to keep that puppy?
You did decide to keep that puppy.

If a sentence begins with here or there, here or there is never the subject of the sentence. Usually the subject is after the verb. Find the verb and ask yourself who/what did it? You can also rearrange the sentence, switching the part after the verb with the part in front of the verb.

Here are the books from the library. (What are here? The books.)
The books from the library are here.

Sometimes a sentence is inverted. The sentence begins with a prepositional phrase and the subject has been placed after the verb. Find the verb and ask yourself who/what did it? You can also rearrange the sentence by switching the part after the verb with the part in front of the verb.

On the bench are my sister's gloves. (What are? The gloves.)
My sister's gloves are on the bench.

Challenge 3: Predicate Nouns

If a sentence with a linking verb has a predicate noun, the verb must still agree with the subject, not the predicate noun. The subject generally comes before the verb and the predicate noun after the verb. In a question, however, they both come after the verb.

Casey's Christmas present was two tickets to a concert.
The best time to call me is weekday evenings.
Are sports your favorite pastime?

Challenge 4: Prepositional Phrases after Subjects

Don't let yourself be tricked by prepositional phrases after the subject. Make sure you match your verb to the subject, not the object of the preposition.

The birds on the beach are seagulls.
That box of erasers belongs in my desk.

Hint: If you cross out the prepositional phrase, it is easier to find the subject.

The birds on the beach are seagulls.
That box of erasers belongs in my desk.

Challenge 5: Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns can be tricky! People often do not use the correct verb when speaking. Memorize the list of pronouns that can be both singular or plural. For those, you need to look at the prepositional phrase that follows. For the always singular or always plural indefinite pronouns, ignore the prepositional phrase.

Singular Plural Singular or Plural
another
each
either
much
neither
one
other
anybody, anyone, anything
everybody, everyone, everything
nobody, no one, nothing
somebody, someone, something
both
few
many
others
several
all
any
more
most
none
some
Everybody has a heart.
Both have driver's licenses.
All of the cake has been eaten. (The cake is one big piece.)
All of the cookies have been eaten. (Cookies are individuals.)

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar
Directions:
Choose the correct verb to complete the sentence.
1.
Julia and Jessica is/are twins.
2.
There is/are the house where my grandfather was born.
3.
Amelia and Jessie is/are a great team when they play tennis together.
4.
The winning pair is/are Mike and Luke.
5.
The tellers at that bank always greets/greet each customer as he or she comes in.
6.
Spring and summer is/are my favorite times of year.
7.
Doesn't/Don't anyone here know how to reach Kirsten?
8.
The coldest time of year in Florida is/are usually January and February.
9.
Is/Are that the movie you were telling me about?
10.
There is/are many beautiful beaches in Hawaii.
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