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Subject-Verb Agreement + Pronouns

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Subject-Verb Agreement + Pronouns [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 09:57
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Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject – Verb agreement is the most commonly tested question type on the GMAT.

  • Every sentence has a subject and a verb which must agree in number.
  • The GMAT tries to make the subject of sentence as confusing as possible, so that you do not know whether the subject is singular or plural.
  • The key to making subjects and verbs agree in GMAT sentence is to first determine whether the subject of each sentence (or clause) is singular or plural.

There are two important review points pertaining to the Subject-Verb agreement

1. Subject and Verb must agree in Numbers

Rule: A singular subject must take a singular verb and a plural subject must take a plural verb.

The key to making subjects and verbs agree in GMAT sentences is to find the subject that goes with a particular verb. To find the subject, you must ignore all the words that are not the subject

A Singular subject requires a singular verb form: The dog runs out of the house.
A Plural subject requires a plural verb form: The dogs run out of the house.
REMEMBER: Only the third person singular subjects (e.g. he, she, it) takes the –S ending. All other subjects use the base form. (Except with the verb be)

2. Subject and Verb must make sense together.


Thus the subject-verb must make logical sense.

e.g. The development of a hydrogen car based on expected performance parameters will be able to travel hundreds of miles without refueling.
The development of a hydrogen car……..will be able to travel…..? It is not the development that will be able to travel. We want to say that the hydrogen car itself will be able to travel. Make sure that the subject and the verb actually have a sensible meaning together.
Correct: Once developed, a hydrogen car based on expected performance parameters will be able to travel hundreds of miles without refueling.

How will the Subject-Verb Agreement be tested on the GMAT

    [1] By Putting Interrupters between the subject and the verb

    There are three types of interrupters commonly placed between the subject and the verb.
      Appositives: Appositives are nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases that are placed next to nouns to further describe them.
      Consider this Sentence: [i]The concert, featuring the Oak City Bango Kings, begin at 7.00.

      Here the phrase featuring the oak…….kings describes the subject The Concert. The sentence tries to confuse us by ending the phrase with the plural kings.
      To avoid such confusion, omit the part between commas, and the error will immediately become obvious.
      Correct: The concert, featuring the Oak City Bango Kings, begins at 7.00

      [ii] Relative Clauses: A part of the sentence preceded by relative pronoun modifying the antecedent.
      Incorrect: The Spanish artist, who is one of the world’s leading exponents of salsa and is known to have taught thousands of students, are living in exile.

      Here the relative clause ends with the plural students confusing us whether to use are or is. We should note that the main subject is Artist and main verb must agree with it.

      Correct: The Spanish artist, who is one of the world’s leading exponents of salsa and is known to have taught thousands of students, is living in exile.

      [iii] Prepositional Phrases: Phrases beginning with preposition and ending with noun/pronoun modify the first word (a noun or verb) in the relationship.

      Incorrect: The Animals in the zoo is hungry.

      The subject is the plural Animals, so the verb must be the plural are.

      Correct: The Animals in the zoo are hungry.

    [2] By putting Additives after subject.

    In English, only the word "and" can give a plural subject. All other phrases (such as as well as, including, in addition to) merely add extra information to the subject.
    So when you see the sentence like one below, do not fall in to the trap. Eliminate the additive phrase and then check Subject-verb agreement.

    Incorrect: John, as well as his friend, are coming for dinner
    Correct: John, as well as his friend, is coming for dinner.

    Incorrect: Mathematics, in addition to history and science, are a required subject.
    Correct: Mathematics, in addition to history and science, is a required subject.
    Correct: Mathematics, history, and science, are required subjects.

    Some common Additives:
    in addition to
    along with
    as well as
    together with

    IMPORTANT NOTE: In the following two cases, even though two subjects are connected by “and” they will be considered singular subject.
    Case 1: If the parts refer to the same person or thing, or works as a single unit, then the verb should be singular
    e.g. Strawberries and cream is a high calorie snack.

    Case 2: If the compound subject is preceded by each or every (thus referring to each subject individually), then the verb should be singular
    e.g. Every freshman and transfer student is required to take student life.

    A hint is to look at the word that follows the verb. If this word is singular, the verb most probably will be singular. For example, in the sentence in Case 1, the singular word snack follows is and this implies that strawberries and cream is a singular subject.

    [3] Either or / Neither nor.

    In either…..or and neither ……..nor structure, the verb always agree with the subject that is closer to it.
    e.g. Neither the president nor his cabinet members are in Washington this week.
    e.g. Neither the cabinet members nor the president is in Washington this week.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: When either or neither is used in a sentence without the or or nor, then the verb has to be singular.
    e.g. Neither of john’s friends is here.

    [4] Collective Nouns.

    A collective or group noun identifies a single entity that is composed of more than one unit: class, team, faculty, majority, family, series, committee, audience, crowd.
    Collective nouns are singular when they act as one unit.
    e.g. The committee meets Friday at noon.
    e.g. A majority is needed to pass the bill.

    But if the context of the sentence emphasizes the individual members of the group, collective nouns are plural.
    e.g. The committees meet each Friday at noon.

    NOTE: On the GMAT, collective nouns are almost always considered singular and therefore require singular verb forms. (Reference :- (1) Aristotle SC Grail, 3rd Edition, Page No 55. (2) MGMAT SC Guide 4th Edition, Page No 40.)

    [5] Commonly confused singular subjects.
    Either/Neither (unless accompanied with ‘or/nor’)
    Nobody/Nothing/No one

    NOTE: each following a subject has no bearing on the verb form.
    e.g. They each are great tennis players

    [6] The number/A number

    The number is singular: The number of acres destroyed by wildfires has increased dramatically over the past several years.

    A number is plural: A number of students are standing outside the office.

    [7] Quantity Words and Phrases
    When discussing fractions or percentages, always get the verb to agree with the subject after the preposition. This is an exception to the preposition rule discussed earlier.
    e.g. Half of the money is stolen
    e.g. Half of the books are stolen

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Majority by itself is singular but when majority refers to a set of people it is plural.
    e.g. A majority is always right.
    e.g. A majority of students are right.

    [8] Subject Phrases and Clauses: Always Singular
    Sometimes the subject of a sentence is an -Ing phrase or even a whole clause. This sort of subject is always singular and requires a singular verb form.

    Having good friends is a wonderful thing.
    Whatever they want to do is fine with me.
    Delivering pizzas is not a glamorous job, but it pays my bills.

    [9] Indefinite Pronouns

    Most of the indefinite pronouns are considered singular except for SANAM pronouns

    SANAM: Some, all, none, any, most.
    In case of SANAM pronoun, it can be singular or plural depending on the context of the sentence.
    e.g. Some of the students are in the class.
    e.g. Some of the water is in the glass.

    [10] Inverted Sentences

    Usually in a sentence the subject always precedes the verb, but sometimes the GMAT can reverse this order, so that the verb comes before the subject.

    Incorrect: Through the Golden Eagle Bridge passes thousands of vehicles every day.

    In the above sentence, the singular verb passes is not referring to the singular Golden Eagle Bridge but to the plural thousands of vehicles. Hence, the correct verb will be the plural pass.

    Correct: Through the Golden Eagle Bridge pass thousands of vehicles every day.

    Summing Up All

    • If the sentence is very long, omit the part between commas.
    • Collective Nouns (class, faculty, majority) are almost always singular.
    • Whenever you see the words each, every, and, as well as, or, etc. in a sentence, always check for subject-verb agreement mismatch.
    • If you are still confused, go with the singular.
    • SANAM (some, all, none, any, most) can be both singular and plural.

Questions to practice

Questions on Subject Verb Agreement

Edit: Disclaimer: This Article is the collection of notes/strategy tips/rules discussed in the strategy guides listed below. For the deep insights of Subject-Verb Agreement error type, readers can refer to these strategy guides.

List of Sources:
Aristotle GMAT Sentence Correction Grail, 3rd Edition.
Kaplan GMAT Verbal Foundations, 2009 Edition
Veritas Prep Sentence Correction Lesson Book, 3rd Edition
Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction Guide, 4th Edition


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Re: Subject-Verb Agreement [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2013, 21:26
Great...Very nice explanation. Thank you
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Re: Subject-Verb Agreement + Pronouns [#permalink] New post 08 Nov 2013, 06:48
really helpful topic...
It will be great if we can get some common mistakes done related to this topic
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Re: Subject-Verb Agreement + Pronouns [#permalink] New post 02 Jan 2015, 21:49
Hello from the GMAT Club VerbalBot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

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Re: Subject-Verb Agreement + Pronouns   [#permalink] 02 Jan 2015, 21:49
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