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Video Transcripts

Grammar for Academic Writers: Advanced Subject–Verb Agreement

Last update 2/6/2018

 

Visual: Walden logo at bottom of screen along with notepad and pencil background.

Audio: Guitar music.

 

Visual: The video’s title is displayed on a background image of books on a table. The screen opens to the following slide: Simple Sentences

Subject + Predicate.

Examples:

  • I am a master’s student.
  • Tom retired after 30 years of teaching.
  • All of the employees will attend the retreat.

Audio: Subject-verb agreement. Specifically, I’ll focus on subject-verb agreement with complex subjects. And that's where it maybe gets the most confusing and where we most often see errors, is just when, when the sentence construction gets to be more complex, it's, it’s more easy to make errors.

I just wanted to do a real quick overview before we start talking about subject-verb agreement just to make sure everybody’s on the same page.

 

Visual: As the speaker talks about the subject, “Subject” is circled with the following: person, place, or thing

As the speaker continues talking about the predicate, “Predicate” is circled with the following: shows action or state of being + any extra information

Audio: So, the main sections of a simple sentence are the subject, which is usually a person, place or, thing, and the predicate, which shows, you know, the, the action or the state of being, and any maybe extra information about the sentence.

 

Visual: As the speaker continues, the sample sentences she reads aloud are shown as follows:

  • I am a master’s student.
  • Tom retired after 30 years of teaching.
  • All of the employees will attend the retreat.

Audio: So, here are some examples: “I am a master's student.” “Tom retired after 30 years of teaching.” “All of the employees will attend the retreat.” So, the first part of the, the predicate is the verb, which you can see underlined. And throughout this last section, we'll just focus on those first two parts, the subject and the verb.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject + Verb

Need to agree in number:

  • I write.
  • You write.
  • Deborah writes.
  • We write.
  • They write.

è A regular present tense verb for the singular third person (she, he, it) includes an “s”. However, irregular verbs will function differently.

Audio: The subject and the verb need to agree in number. And in English, regular verbs follow this pattern: “I write. You write. Deborah writes. We write. They write.” So, most of the verbs are the same. In the present tense, the only form that’s different is when we’re talking about, I guess what we, we linguists and grammar nerds call the third person singular, or singular third person. Meaning that when we’re talking about one person that is not me and not you. So, in language use in English, normally it makes sense to add an “s” to something when we make it plural. But the rule is different for verbs and we add an “s” when the verb is for a single person.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject-Verb Agreement

2+ Subjects + 1 Verb

  • The committee members and the student write every day.

When the subject of the sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.

Audio: So, now that we know the pattern and kind of how to talk about it, let's look at some common errors in subject-verb agreement and when it gets a little tricky because we have a complex subject. For example, when we have two or more subjects in one sentence: “The committee members and the student write every day.” So, even though the subject closest to the verb is singular, “student,” we use the plural form of the verb because we’re talking about a group, “the committee members” and “the student.”

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject-Verb Agreement

Complex Subject + Verb

  • The nurse who normally works with pediatric patients volunteers at the blood drive every year.

Match the verb to “nurse,” not to the noun right next to the verb

When a phrase comes between the subject and the verb, the verb still agrees with the subject, not the noun or pronoun in the phrase following the subject of the sentence.

Audio: Another common error example is when we have a complex subject. And so, I'll give an example here. When we do have a complex subject, it can sometimes be a bit tricky to decide which form of the verb to use and what to match it with. So, in this sentence, “The nurse who normally works with pediatric patients,” that’s our subject. So, what we need to do is look for the main subject because there are two different people or groups here. There’s “the nurse” at the beginning of the sentence, and there’s also “the pediatric patients.” So, “nurse” is singular, “patients” is plural. So, we have to kind of identify, who’s the main person or people that this sentence is about.  And, in this case, the main subject is “the nurse.” So, the rest of the subject is a phrase that describes which nurse she is, the one
who works with pediatric patients.” So, we need to match our verb to “nurse,” and not to the noun right next to the verb, in this case which is, is “patients.” So, it’s the nurse who volunteers. So, when a phrase comes between that main subject and the verb, the verb still needs to agree with or, or match with the number of the main subject.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject-Verb Agreement

Noncount Subject + Verb

Word or noun that can’t be counted:

furniture, information

one information, three furniture

three pieces of furniture, one bit of information

  • Information about Walden’s Master’s degree programs in education is available on the website.

Noncount nouns take a singular verb

Audio: And a final point about subject-verb agreement is related to noncount nouns, or when our, our subject is a noncount noun. In English, some nouns, or things, are noncount nouns, meaning that they’re a type of, of word or noun that, that can’t be counted, So, for example, furniture or information. As an example, we don’t say “one information” or “three furniture.” That sounds a bit odd in English and isn’t grammatically correct. Rather, we might say something like, “three pieces of furniture” or “one bit of information.” So, these special kinds of nouns always take the singular form of the verb.

So, in this example sentence we use “is” with “information” because that’s our main subject, rather than “are.” “Information about Walden’s Master’s degree programs in education is available on the website.”

 

Visual: The screen changes to end with the words “Walden University Writing Center” and “Questions? E-mail writingsupport@waldenu.edu.”