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Understanding the Importance of Subject-Verb Agreement: Crafting Logical and Grammatically Correct Sentences

Just as a house needs a solid base to stand, a sentence needs the right subject-verb agreement to sound coherent. Inconsistent subject-verb agreement can confuse your readers and disrupt the flow of your writing. 

So, it’s crucial to master this rule to make your sentences clear and effective. Let’s dive into the elements of the subject-verb agreement to enhance your writing skills.

Understanding Clauses and Phrases

Clause-and-Phrases

In any sentence, clauses and phrases contribute to the overall message. Clauses consist of a subject and a predicate, while phrases do not include a subject that performs an action. 

A phrase merely provides additional information to the reader. The correct understanding of these sentence parts is necessary for correct subject-verb agreement.

Example of a Clause in a Sentence

“My new cat, which is black and white, was sleeping on your porch.”

The independent clause here is, “My new cat was sleeping on your porch” because it has a subject (My cat) and a predicate (was sleeping on your porch), and it can also stand alone as a complete sentence without needing to add, “which is black and white.”

Example of a Phrase in a Sentence

“With a heavy heart, she walked away.”

“With a heavy heart” is the phrase in this sentence because it doesn’t have a subject acting. It just gives the reader more information about how “she walked away.”

The subject “she” belongs to the main clause “she walked away” and is not part of the phrase.

Identifying Whether a Subject Pronoun Is Singular or Plural

The verb needs to agree with its subject in number. So, it’s crucial to understand whether a subject pronoun is singular or plural.

Singular pronouns (he, she, it) require singular verbs, and plural pronouns (they, we) need plural verbs.

  • Example: She writes beautifully. They write beautifully.

Determining Whether a Collective Noun Should Be Treated as Singular or Plural

A collective noun is a group of individuals or things as a single unit. It’s usually treated as singular but can be plural if the focus is on the individuals within the group.

  • The committee oversees the implementation of new policies. (Singular)
  • The jury have reached their verdict after careful deliberation. (Plural)

Conjunctions Connecting a Compound Subject

When subjects are connected by the words or or nor, the verb should agree with the subject that is closest to it.

  • Example: Either the two dogs or the cat is making that noise.

Compound Subjects With Singular and Plural Nouns

When you have a compound subject that contains both singular and plural nouns, the verb should agree with the closest subject.

  • Example: Neither the manager nor the employees were at fault.

Sentences That Begin With the Words Here and There

When a sentence begins with there is/are or here is/are, the subject should come after the verb, so the verb must agree with it.

  • Example: There is a pen on the table. There are pens on the table.

Titles of Books, Movies, and Poems

Titles of singular entities like books, movies and poems are always considered singular, regardless of the title.

  • Example: The Great Gatsby is my favorite book.

Measurements

A quantity or measurement is generally treated as singular.

  • Example: Five dollars is too much to pay for a coffee.

Subject-verb agreement is more than just a grammar rule; it’s a tool that gives the clarity and precision your sentences need. 

Remember, good writing isn’t only about having a great story or idea to share; it’s also about expressing that idea clearly and correctly. So, keep practicing, and soon, this will become second nature.