Structuring Sentences: Common Error--Subject–Verb Agreement

Last updated 6/10/2016


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Common Error #3: Subject–Verb Disagreement

Subject and verb “disagree” in terms of number (singular subject/plural verb or plural subject/singular verb)

Audio:  So the next common error that we often see with simple sentences is with subject-verb disagreement.  So this is where the subject and the verb disagree in terms of numbers.  So if you -- you might have a singular subject with a plural verb or a plural subject with a singular verb.  These would be examples of subject-verb disagreement.


Visual: Slide #21 opens “Subject–Verb Disagreement Examples” with two bulleted example sentences at the bottom. Each example has a large open space below it.

Audio:  In the first example, we have “Twenty people has applied for the job.” So the first thing we want to do here is to determine the main subject, and then we want to determine the main verb.  We've got to find that main subject and find that main verb, and then we're going to be able to make sure that our subject and verb agree with each other.  So in this sentence, we've got “Twenty people”, so “people” is our subject. And then our main verb here is “has,” right? So because “people” is our subject and “people” is plural, then we also have to make sure that “has” becomes plural.


Visual: A text box appears below the first example with a suggested revision.

Audio:  And so to fix this one, I would say “Twenty people have applied for the job.”  So “people” is plural, therefore “have” also needs to be plural.  In this next example, this one gets a little bit more tricky because here we've got a complex subject, and we've got to be able to break it down and find the main part of that subject to figure out what part of that needs to agree with the verb. So here we have “Following pressure from peers often lead to teenagers engaging in risky behavior.”


Visual: Dayna uses a green arrow to point out parts of the sentence as she discusses the example.

Audio:  So our subject here is “Following pressure from peers.” This entire thing is the subject. So we have a complex subject. And then we have the predicate “often lead to teenagers engaging in risky behavior.”  That's your predicate.  But our main part of the subject is actually the word “following.” And because “following” is singular, then our verb needs to be singular as well. 


Visual: A text box appears below the second example with a suggested revision.

Audio:  So to fix this sentence, we're going to want to say “Following pressure from peers often leads to teenagers engaging in risky behavior.”  Again, our whole subject is “Following pressure from peers.” It's a complex subject.  But we've got to find the main part of that, and that's “following.”  So it's singular. 


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