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Subject – Verb Agreement

 

The verb in the sentence should agree in number with the noun acting as the subject. A singular subject requires a singular verb and a plural subject requires a plural one.


The following table gives the verb inflections to be followed when we consider subject-verb agreement. Students mostly have problems with third person singular subjects.


We should use V1 +s/es or has for third person singular only. For I person and II person pronouns we should not add s/es to the verb. We also should not use has for I person and II person pronouns.

 

Singular

Plural

First person: I

First person: we

* I sing songs

* I sings songs.

 

* I do not sing songs

* I does not sing songs

 

* I has a problem.

* I have a problem.

* We sings songs

* We sing songs.

 

* We does not sing songs

* We do not sing songs

 

* We has a problem.

* We have a problem.

Second person: you

Second person: you

* You sings songs.

* You sing songs.

 

* You does not sing songs.

* You do not sing songs

 

* You has a problem.

* You have a problem.

* You sings songs

* You sing songs.

 

* You does not sing songs.

* You do not sing songs.

 

* You has a problem.

* You have a problem.

Third person: he, she, it or any singular noun

They or any plural noun

* He do not sing songs.

* He does not sing songs.

 

* John do not sing songs.

* John does not sing songs.

 

* John have a problem.

* John has a problem.

* They does not sing songs.

* They do not sing songs.

 

* Those boys does not sing songs.

* Those boys do not sing songs.

 

* Those students has a problem.

* Those students have a problem.


Study the following example.

* A good sportsperson takes both defeat and victory with equal enthusiasm.

* Good sportspersons take both defeat and victory with equal enthusiasm.


G-matic Trap of Additional Infomation

Many sentences in GMAT are with a lot of additional infomation that separates the subject and verb causing confusion. The infomation may be in prepositional phrases, relative clauses, appositives and modifier phrases.

Read the section The G-matic Trap of Additional Infomation in Chapter 5 once again before you start this topic. For your understanding the additional infomation that separates the subject and verb is given in italics in the corrected sentences.

*The concept of how the resources are to be distributed among the subjects form the basis for the socio-political structures.

In the above sentence, the prepositional phrase after the concept is additional infomation . If we ignore this additional infomation , we can identify the agreement error.

* The concept of how the resources are to be distributed among the subjects forms the basis for the socio-political structures.

* For financially troubled economies, the question whether the governmental cost cutting to the degree of austerity in operational expenses are to be considered first.

The subject question is with additional infomation added to it. If that infomation is ignored, the sentence is quite manageable and thus, can be corrected the following way.

* For financially troubled economies, the question whether the governmental cost cutting to the degree of austerity in operational expenses is to be considered first.

* In the current scenario of specialized division of labor, team obligations forced onto the team to bring out the required outcome forces the individual members to suppress the individual innovation, sometimes to the detriment of the company.

In the above sentence, the modifier phrase forced onto … outcome separates the plural subject from the verb. The intervening singular nouns make the singular verb forces look correct. But if you ignore the additional infomation , you can identify the error of agreement.

*In the current scenario of specialized division of labor, team obligations forced onto the team to bring out the required outcome force the individual members to suppress the individual innovation, sometimes to the detriment of the company.

The Rules Governing Subject Verb Agreement

  1. One/none/neither/either + of + plural noun takes a singular verb.

* One of the books have been found useful.

*One of the books has been found useful.

* Neither of the proposals for the merger seem acceptable.

*Neither of the proposals for the merger seems acceptable.

  1. A compound subject with two nouns connected by and, and both… and requires a plural verb.

*Adaptability to ever-changing business environment and consistency in the basic vision is needed for a company to succeed in the long run.

*Adaptability to ever-changing business environment and consistency in the basic vision are needed for a company to succeed in the long run.

However, one important exception to this rule is to be noted. If the two nouns combined by and refer to the same noun or the combination of the two nouns, the concept of the compound noun becomes singular and needs singular noun.

Study the following to understand this.

* The Prime Minister and Chairman of Planning Commission of India have given the consent to this project.

*The Prime Minister and Chairman of Planning Commission of India has given the consent to this project.

Well, you do not need to be an expert of Indian Polity to understand this. A grammatical hint is already present in the sentence. If the modifier the is present only once, the compound subject refers to the single person. If the modifier is repeated, then two persons are implied. Apply the same principle to the following.

* My father and guardian have given the consent.

*My father and guardian has given the consent. (The modifier my is not repeated. Thus, only one person is talked about.)

* My father and my guardian has given the consent.

*My father and my guardian have given the consent. (The modifier my has been repeated. Thus, two persons are talked about in this sentence.)

  1. When a subject is connected with additional nouns with prepositions with, along with, together with, including, and excluding, the verb should agree with the first noun, not with the second noun that comes after the preposition. Even the conjunction structures and … not, and but not… has the same effect.

* The cultural conflict, along with underlying conflict of interests, have made the split inevitable.

*The cultural conflict, along with underlying conflict of interests, has made the split inevitable.

* All the board of directors, excluding the member involved in the controversy, is ready to give a public statement.

*All the board of directors, excluding the member involved in the controversy, are ready to give a public statement.

* Most of the times, the parent, but not the children, are responsible for their misbehavior.

*Most of the times, the parent, but not the children, is responsible for their misbehavior.

  1. When the nouns in the subject are connected by or, either … or, or neither… nor, the verb should agree with the second noun (the noun nearer to the verb).

* Either you or I are to take the credit for this achievement.

*Either you or I am to take the credit for this achievement.

* Either I or you is to take the blame for this failure.

*Either I or you are to take the blame for this failure.

  1. The verb in the relative clause (which starts with who, whom, which, that etc,) should agree with the antecedent for that relative pronoun.

* The local banks, which is funded by deposits, rather than by funds raised from an external source, does not find many hardships during global recession.

In this example, the antecedent for the relative clause is the noun the local banks and thus the verb in the relative clause should be plural. Moreover, the singular verb does not agree with the subject. Thus, the sentence is with two agreement errors. The following is the corrected version of the sentence.

*The local banks, which are funded by deposits, rather than by the funds raised from an external source, do not find many hardships during global recession.

However, you should be careful about more complex structures involving this. If the relative clause is preceded by a noun phrase with two or more nouns, the relative clause may become ambiguous in reference. It is also possible that wrong matching of the relative clause with antecedent results in illogical predication.

Study the following illustrations to understand this concept.

? The quality of the narration that is quite respectable is likely to make the novel a great success.

In the above example, the relative clause (that is quite respectable) is present after the noun phrase the quality of narration. It is not clear whether the narration or the quality is respectable. This possibility, creating ambiguity, makes the sentence questionable.


Look at the following corrections, which are not beautiful, but still G-matically correct.

* The quality of narration, a quality that is quite respectable, is likely to make this book a great success.

*The quality of narration, a narration that is quite respectable, is likely to make this book a great success.

* The quality of books which is published by this company is good.

The relative clause, because of the singular verb used, gets connected to the quality, giving a sense that the quality is published. This is illogical and thus, the relative clause is with illogical predication.

*The quality of books which are published by this company is good.

Study another example and understand how the error of illogical predication is resulted and how it is corrected.

* The group of entrepreneurs that is mostly first-generation ones have a different perspective of business risks from that held by seasoned entrepreneurs.

*The group of entrepreneurs that are mostly first-generation ones has a different perspective of business risks from that held by seasoned entrepreneurs.

  1. Collective nouns (the names given to groups) usually take singular verbs when we consider the collection. However, we need to use plural verbs when individual members are considered.
    List of some collective nouns: army, association, audience, committee, company, crew, family, flock, gang, government, group, herd, press, public, staff, swarm, team, troop.

Study the following examples to understand this concept.

* His family is not poor anymore. (Here, family is considered a group.)

*His family are ardent lovers of chess. (In this case, the individual members are considered. This can be understood by the use of plural noun in the complement.)

Study one more example that illustrates the same point.

* The team is playing well.

* The team are positioned at strategic locations in the field.

Though this concept of notional singular and notional plural is quite accepted by grammarians and writers of style, it seems that the G-matic sentence has a bent for singular use of collective nouns. Thus, though it is not a hard-and-fast rule, you should mostly consider a singular verb with collective nouns.

  1. The + number of + plural noun talks about a number and thus requires a singular verb, where as a + number of + plural noun gives a sense of many and thus requires a plural noun.

Study the following examples.

* The number of delegates who are to participate in the convention are yet to be known.

* The number of delegates who are to participate in the convention is yet to be known.

* A number of delegates participating in the convention is uncertain about their stand on the issue.

* A number of delegates participating in the convention are uncertain about their stand on the issue.

  1. Most/some/all/a fraction/a percentage + of + plural noun takes a plural verb while these very words, when used with uncountable nouns, take singular verbs.

Study the following examples.

  • Most of the scientists are skeptical about the theory proposed.
  • Most of money invested in the country has been invested in infrastructure.
  • 30% of the students are not likely to turn up.
  • 25% of time is scheduled for classroom discussion.
  1. Noun –equivalents, such as to + first form, ing form, and a clause, take singular verbs. However, if they are combined by conjunction and, plural verb is needed. Study the following.

* To tell lies are not good

* To tell lies is not good.

* Preparing for the contingencies are necessary these days.

* Preparing for the contingencies is necessary these days.

* To conduct experiments and to evaluate the outcomes is a basic step in hypothesis verification.

* To conduct experiments and to evaluate the outcomes are the basic steps in hypothesis verification.

  1. Plural nouns that express measurements generally imply quantity and thus require a singular verb. So is the case with plural nouns indicating the names of movies, books, diseases etc.

* Twenty thousand dollars are too much a price for this property.

* Twenty thousand dollars is too much a price for this property.

* Ten miles are too long to go by walk.

* Ten miles is too long to go by walk.

* Star Wars have always been my favorite movie.

* Star wars has always been my favorite movie.

  1. Indefinite pronouns, such as something, someone, somebody, none, neither, either, anyone, anybody, etc, are always considered singular and should be used with singular verb.

Study the following examples.

* Anything that favor competitive advantage to a business are to be encouraged.

* Anything that favors competitive advantage to a business is to be encouraged.
 

Example
The complex of ancient monuments near Cairo, three of which are popularly known as the Great Pyramids, remains the most massive construction on the earth even today.
A. three of which are popularly known as the Great Pyramids, remains the most massive construction
B. three of them are popularly known as the Great Pyramids, remains the most massive construction
C. three of which are popularly known as the Great Pyramids, remain the most massive constructions
D. and the three of them popularly known as the Great Pyramids remain the most massive construction
E. and the three popularly known Great Pyramids remain the most massive constructions
Solution
Explanation: the given sentence contains a relative clause (three of which are… Great Pyramids) which correctly modifies the preceding noun ancient monuments. The verb remains correctly agrees with the singular noun complex. Furthermore, the singular noun massive construction correctly agrees with the singular noun complex.Thus, the given sentence is corrects as it is.
Option A: Correct. The sentence is correct as it is.
Option B: using a main clause (three of them are … Pyramids) in the place of a relative clause creates run-on sentence. This option does not have a conjunction to combine two main clauses.
Option C: both the verb remain and the noun most massive constructions do not agree with the singular subject complex.
Option D: the use of and creates the problem. Because of this, the three Great Pyramids are excluded from the complex of ancient monuments. The complex and the Great Pyramids become separate constructions. This sense is illogical. Moreover, the singular noun construction does not agree with the now-plural
subject.
Option E: the use of conjunction and is problematic because the construction excludes the three pyramids from the complex of ancient monuments.


 

Fill in the blanks
Fill in the blanks with correct forms of verbs from between choices given in the brackets.

  1. Recent excavations at the site of Stonehenge, located at Wiltshire in England, ----------------- (indicate/indicates) that Paleolithic technology used in the construction was alone enough to move stones of that enormous weight.
  2. Despite increasing similarities between African American music and mainstream American music, the essence of African American musical scores that ------------- (have /has) become popular in most albums ------------ (has /have) retained its African characteristics.
  3. At least ten in number, different vaccines for mumps, which --------- (were/was) a common childhood disease in the past, ----------- (have /has) made it a very rare disease among children in the present United States.
  4. Recognizing a viable plan during the periods of contingencies and following that plan with appropriate adaptations to the ever-changing business situations -------- (have been/ has been) crucial for a company to sustain in a prolonged period of economic downturn.
  5. The Great Wall of China, built primarily to protect the empire from the attack of nomadic tribes, and made mostly by stamping mud and gravel in wooden framed boxes, -------- (was/were) in fact a series of hundreds of individual walls, the oldest of which ------ (was/were) constructed in 5th century BC.

 Keys

  1. Indicate; the subject excavations is plural and thus, requires plural verb indicate.
  2. Have become, has remained; the relative clause should have the verb that correctly agrees with the logical antecedent. It is the scores, not the essence, that have become popular in albums. Thus, plural verb have become is logically correct in the first blank. However, the logical subject (essence) for the verb of main clause is singular and thus, has retained is correct verb for the second.
  3. was, have made; mumps, a name of a disease, requires a singular verb despite its plural appearance. Thus, was is the correct verb form for the relative clause. The plural subject different vaccines requires a plural verb have made in the later part of the sentence.
  4. have been ;the subject contains two ing forms connected by and. So a plural verb is required.
  5. Was, was; if you chop out additional infomation , you can easily see that the singular subject the Great Wall of China requires singular was. The use of the adjective the oldest talks about a single wall and thus singular was is correct.




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