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Subject-Verb Agreement

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New post 12 Jun 2015, 02:04
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Subject-Verb Agreement


Subject-Verb agreement sounds fairly complex but actually refers to a very simple concept related to singular and plural verbs. All it says is that a singular verb must have a singular subject and a plural verb must have a plural subject. That's it!

Subject-Verb Agreement Rule
A singular verb must take a singular subject and a plural verb must take a plural subject.
A subject is whatever is doing the action of the verb. (For details refer to the earlier section of this book) A very simple example of this concept could be the sentence:
The students has taken the test.
The singular verb 'has' does not agree with the plural subject 'students'. So the correct sentence should read:
The students have taken the test (plural subject & plural verb)

OR

The student has taken the test (singular subject & singular verb)
Now let's look at a more GMAT-like question:

Recent studies indicate that the ability of a soldier to remain calm under attack by enemies, internal or external, determine whether the soldier will be the victor or the vanquished.


A) determine whether the soldier will be the victor or the capvanquished.
B) determines whether the soldier will be the victor and the capvanquished.
C) determine whether the soldier should be the victor and the capvanquished.
D) determines whether the soldier will be the victor or the capvanquished.
E) determine if the soldier will be the victor or the vanquished.


Follow the Aristotle Way and look at the first words of every option. So should it be 'determine' or 'determines'? Since it is the singular 'ability' and not the plural 'enemies' that determines, the correct option should be the singular 'determines' (and no, adding an 's' to a word does not make it plural; this actually makes it singular in most cases)

Analyzing the options,

- A, C & D are out because of the plural ‘determine’
- Between B & D the correct choice has to be D because the 'and' in B distorts the meaning of the sentence. How can the soldier be both the victor as well as the loser?


Sounds simple enough, right?



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


1) Placing the subject and the verb far away from each aa aa other (as in the above example)
There are primarily 3 ways of separating the subject from the verb:

i) By using Appositives

Appositives are nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases that are placed next to nouns to further describe them. If you see large parts of a sentence separated by a comma, it might be a good idea to ignore the part between commas and read the rest of the sentence as a whole.

For example

Nuclear fusion, one of the most effective ways of separating carbon and oxygen atoms, are being used with deadly intent by some countries
Seeing the plural ‘are’ next to the plural ‘atoms’, you could get tricked into thinking that the sentence is correct the way it is written. To avoid such confusion, omit the part between commas and the error will immediately become obvious to you – how can nuclear fusion be ‘are’?

Thus the correct sentence will read,
Nuclear fusion, one of the most effective ways of separating carbon and oxygen atoms, is being used with deadly intent by some countries.


ii) By using Relative Clauses

M F Husain, who is one of India’s most famous painters renowned for his paintings of horses, are living in exile.
This is obviously incorrect since the subject is ‘M F Husain’, which is singular, but the verb is ‘are’, which is plural. The idea is to confuse you by ending the relative clause with the plural ‘horses’.

The correct sentence will read,
M F Husain, who is one of India’s most famous painters renowned for his paintings of horses, is living in exile.




iii) By using a Prepositional Phrase
The animals in the zoo is hungry.

The subject is the plural ‘animals’ so the verb must be the plural ‘are’ and not the singular ‘is’.
The correct sentence will read,
The animals in the zoo are hungry.




2) Confusing you with Additives
Look at the following two sentences:

A) John, as well as his friend, is coming for dinner
B) John, as well as his friend, are coming for dinner

Which one do you think is correct?

If your answer is B you are wrong even though both John and his friend ‘are’ coming for dinner. Remember that in English only 'and' can make plural subjects. All other phrases (such as 'as well as' above) can only make singular subjects. These phrases are called 'additives'.


Here is a list of some common additives:
· in addition to
· along with
· as well as
· together with
· including
· along with


So to sum up:
John and his friend are coming for dinner.
BUT
John as well as his friend is coming for dinner.
How about this sentence:
Strawberries and cream is/are a high calorie snack.


In this case even though ‘and’ is being used as the connector the correct verb will be ‘is’. This is an exception to the above rule - If two words connected by and are thought of as a single unit, they’re considered a singular subject.

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 above sentence the singular word snack follows is and this reinforces the conclusion that strawberries and cream is a singular subject.

(OG 12 – Q 5)




3) Either or / Neither nor

A) Neither John nor his friends are/is sleeping in the lobby.
B) Neither John's friends nor John are/is sleeping in the lobby.


Which of these do you go with?
The rule is simple - Make the verb agree with the subject that is closest to it.
So in A the correct verb should be 'are' (agrees with nearer subject 'friends') and in B the correct verb should be 'is' (agrees with the singular 'John'). The same rule applies to 'either...or', simply 'or' and similar constructions.


4) Collective Nouns

Remember Collective nouns are always singular. So, a flock of sheep 'is' grazing and not 'are' grazing (flock is a collective noun).
For more examples of collective nouns check the previous section on Grammar review.



5) Each & Every

Each of the students is/are in the class.
If you've marked 'are' you are wrong because 'each' is singular; so the correct verb should be 'is'.
Here is a list of some other commonly confused singular subjects:
· Each/Every
· Anyone/Everyone/Someone
· Anybody/Everybody/Somebody
· Anything/Everything/Something
· Whoever/Whatever
· Either/Neither (unless accompanied with 'or' in which case refer to previously discussed rule)
· Nobody/Nothing/No one



6) The number / A number


'The number' is singular
The number of students standing outside the office is increasing.


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



7) Words that are sometimes singular and sometimes plural
Majority 'is' but majority of something 'are':
· A majority is always right.
· A majority of students are right.



8) One of the X who/that Y…

Consider this sentence:
This is one of the cars that belong/belongs to him.
Which one do we go with, the singular belongs or the plural belong?
The answer is the plural ‘belong’.
In general remember the following structure for such questions:
One of the ‘Noun’ (will always be plural) + that/who + Plural Verb

Examples:

· He is one of the students who study here
· Any of the members who disagree may leave the committee
· This is one of the questions that are incorrect



However, please do not confuse this construction with the one below:
One of the chairs is broken (not ‘are broken’)
The structure for such questions is:
One of the ‘Noun’ (will always be plural)+Singular Verb
(usually ‘is’)

It is nly when the plural noun is followed by ‘that/who’ that the singular verb changes into plural.


Helpful Tips about Subject Verb agreement questions:


· If the sentence is very long omit the part between commas
· Collective nouns are always singular
· Whenever you see the words each, every, and, as well as, or, etc. in a setence always check for subject-verb agreement
· If you are still confused go with singular
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New post 13 Jun 2015, 13:48
shalini199077 wrote:
Subject-Verb Agreement

...

Follow the Aristotle Way and look at the first words of every option. So should it be 'determine' or 'determines'? Since it is the singular 'ability' and not the plural 'enemies' that determines, the correct option should be the singular 'determines'(and no, adding an 's' to a word does not make it plural; this actually makes it singular in most cases)

Analyzing the options,

...

I appreciate the effort you have put into compiling these rules. :)

As I was reading through the post, I came across a point that I wish to share.

The highlighted sentence could be misleading as a 'word' could be anything, a verb or a noun or something else. However, in this case you are referring specifically to a 'verb' (determine).

We add 's/es' to a 'verb' to form 3rd person singular (example:he/she/it) in present simple tense. For example-

She(singular) determines ...
They(plural) determine ...

It would be good to point out here that adding an 's/es' to a lot of nouns does make them plural. For example: girl-girls; cake-cakes. At the same time, it's NOT necessary that all nouns that end with 's/es' are plural. For example: Bill gates, Diabetes, Economics, Physics (all these nouns end with 's/es' but are singular).


Happy Prepping!

Dolly Sharma
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Re: Subject-Verb Agreement  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Jan 2016, 00:26
SC grail - Aristotle
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Re: Subject-Verb Agreement &nbs [#permalink] 25 Jan 2016, 00:26
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