Students who have trouble understanding the rules for subject verb agreement are often confused about what to fix. When a teacher points out that you aren’t matching your subjects and verbs, you might have an extremely difficult problem on your hands. With some practice, however, you can learn how to fix your habits and have much more understandable, correct grammar. Read on to learn more about the rules for subject verb agreement and to practice with some examples and exercises.
You have to make sure that the subject and verb agree in number. This means that if the subject is plural, the verb should be too. If the subject is singular, the verb should be singular as well. It seems pretty simple, but in reality, it can be tricky to sort out the right verb to use with a particular subject.
Here are some examples of proper subject verb agreement:
Notice in the last example that the inversion of the subject and verb causes the sentence to sound more poetic. However, the subject and verb still have to agree in number. Below are two more special examples that show how careful you have to be in making the subject and verb agree:
In the first example, you might argue that “students” does not match “writes.” However, notice that the reality is, “each” is the subject, which is what has to match the verb. Just because “students” is the noun closest to “writes,” that does not mean that they are the noun and verb that have to match. In the second example, “many” and “girls” are both plural, so you might have not made a mistake – but know that “many” and “wear” are the noun and verb that have to match.
Here are some examples of poor subject verb agreement: can you fix the mistakes? (mistakes shown in “Answers” column below)
Why is subject verb agreement important? The truth is, when subjects and verbs do not match in number, someone will assume you made a mistake. Sometimes this will confuse the listener or reader – did you mean to use a different tense? Or perhaps a different subject? In some cases, it might sound like you had meant to use an infinitive, but had forgotten to include a helping verb.
Of course, someone who really wants to understand you conversationally will work hard to determine what you mean and will ignore your mistakes. But, you make someone’s life easier by speaking with correct grammar, and you will impress someone with your writing and speaking skills by taking the time to use proper subject verb agreement.
If you understand the concept of subject verb agreement perfectly, this might not ensure that you have correct subject verb agreement. You might not know the correct conjugations of a verb in English, which is causing you to trip up. Make sure to work on memorizing the correct forms of a verb: do a lot of reading every day to expose yourself to correct grammar usage.