English Usage & Grammar Notes

April 26, 2006

Subject – Verb Agreement

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:07 am

SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT


The subject and verb must agree in number:

 

– Both must be singular, or both must be plural.

 

– Problems occur in the present tense because one must add an -s or -es at the end of the verb when the subjects or the entity performing the action is a singular third person: he, she, it, or words for which these pronouns could substitute.

 

Notice the difference between singular and plural forms in the following examples:

 

Singular Plural
The student sings. (He or she sings) Your children sing. (They sing)
The bird does migrate. (It does) Those birds do migrate. (They do)

In order to find out if your subject and verb agree, you need to be able to identify the subject of your sentence. Here are some helpful hints that will help you to decipher where your subject is and where it is not.


Where is my subject?

Most likely, your verb will agree with the first noun to the left of the verb:

 

The Supreme Court judge decides the appropriate penalty.
Subject: judge Verb: decides

The committee members were satisfied with the resolution.
Subject: members Verb: were

Occasionally, a sentence has the subject after the verb instead of before it. This strategy is often used for poetic effect.

Over the ripples glides a small canoe.

Subject: a small canoe Verb: glides

There was a well-known writer at the meeting.
Subject: a well-knowwriter

Verb: was

You will not find the subject in a modifying phrase (MP), a phrase that starts with a preposition, a gerund, or a relative pronoun and that modifies the meaning of the noun or subject under discussion.

 

The group of students is going on a field trip.
Subject: the group MP: of students Verb: is

The survey covering seven colleges reveals a growth in enrollment.
Subject: the survey MP: covering seven colleges Verb: reveals

The speaker whom you saw at the lecture is one of the state senators from

Minnesota.
Subject: the speaker MP: whom you saw at the lecture Verb: is

If subjects are joined by and, they are considered plural.

 

The quarterback and the coach are having a conference.
Subject: the quarterback and the coach Verb: are having

If subjects are joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the closer subject.

 

Either the actors or the director is at fault.
Subjects: actors, director Verb: is

Either the director or the actors are at fault.
Subjects: director, actors Verb: are

The relative pronouns (who, whom, which, and that) are either singular or plural, depending on the words they refer to.

 

The sales manager is a good researcher who spends a great amount of time surfing the Web for information.
Subject: the sales manager Verbs: is, spends

Sales managers are good researchers who spend a great amount of time surfing the Web for information.
Subject: sales managers Verbs: are, spend

Indefinite pronouns (someone, somebody, each, either one, everyone, or anyone) are considered singular and need singular verbs although they convey plural meaning.

 

Anyone who wants to pursue higher education has to pass entrance exams.
Subject: anyone Verbs: wants, has

Everyone on the committee is welcome to express his/her ideas.

A few nouns can be either plural or singular, depending on whether they mean a group or separate individuals. These words are rarely used as plurals in modern writing.

 

The jury is sequestered.
Subject: jury Verb: is

The jury are having an argument.
Subject: jury Verb: are having

A few subjects look plural but are really singular or vice versa.

 

The news of the discovery is spreading.
Subject: news Verb: is

The mass media have publicized the facts.
Subject: mass media Verb: have publicized

The data amaze everyone.
Subject: data Verb: amaze

HKEOL

Learning & Publication
Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong
dwjo@netvigator.com

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April 18, 2006

Who or Whom

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:10 am

Who or Whom

 Correct usage of the who/whom pronouns presents difficulties for many writers. The following guidelines and examples may help you determine which one to use.

  • If a pronoun (he, she, it, they) could serve as the subject of the who/whom clause, use who or whoever.
John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in November of 1963, was the youngest president elected in the United States.
  • In the example sentence, who is part of a clause that modifies the subject of the sentence, JFK. If who were replaced with he or JFK, the clause would make sense and reinforce the idea that who not only refers to the subject of the sentence but could also replace it.


  • When a pronoun functions as the object of a clause, use whom or whomever.
John F. Kennedy, whom people respected for his political savvy, was assassinated in November of 1963.
  • In this example sentence, the whom clause modifies the subject of the sentence. It differs from the first example, however, in that whom functions as the object of the clause in which it exists. People is the subject in the clause, while whom (referring to JFK) is the object the verb respected refers to.


  • When a preposition (in, of, on, without, at, from) precedes the pronoun, use whom or whomever.
The anonymous donor, of whom we speak, graciously gave ten million dollars to the flood-relief fund.
  • In this example, whom functions as the object of the preposition instead of as the object of a clause.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon- Hong Kong

2799 4728

dwjo@netvigator.com  

April 12, 2006

Verb Tenses (3)

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 12:52 am

Perfect Forms

Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect tense describes an action that happened at an indefinite time in the past or that began in the past and continues in the present.This tense is formed by using has/have with the past participle of the verb. Most past participles end in -ed. Irregular verbs have special past participles that must be memorized.

Example Meaning
The researchers have traveled to many countries in order to collect more significant data. At an indefinite time
Women have voted in presidential elections since 1921. Continues in the present

Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense describes an action that took place in the past before another past action. This tense is formed by using had with the past participle of the verb.

By the time the troops arrived, the war had ended.

Future Perfect Tense

Future perfect tense describes an action that will occur in the future before some other action. This tense is formed by using will have with the past participle of the verb.

By the time the troops arrive, the combat group will have spent several weeks waiting.


Use of No and Not

No

  • No answers a yes/no question.
    "No, the president wasn't surprised by the results of the election."
  • No precedes a noun that has no article.
    The company had no worthy rivals in the industry.
  • No can be used before a noun that is preceded by an adjective, as in the preceding example, but it is not used before any, much, many, or enough.
    Jim has no argument with which to continue the discussion.
    The manager had no reason to support his request for a raise.

Not

  • Not precedes a noun that has an article.
    The virus is not the source of the outbreak.
  • Not precedes any, much, many, or enough.
    Not many amateur astronomers can afford the equipment necessary to study the nova.
    There is not much budget left for another trial.
  • Not makes a verb negative.
    They do not want to proceed with the experimental study.

Note: No and not are never used in the same sentence.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowloon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

April 5, 2006

Verb Tenses (2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 2:05 am

Progressive Forms

Present Progressive Tense

Present progressive tense describes an ongoing action that is happening at the same time the statement is written. This tense is formed by using am/is/are with the verb form ending in -ing.

The sociologist is examining the effects that racial discrimination has on society.

Past Progressive Tense

Past progressive tense describes a past action which was happening when another action occurred. This tense is formed by using was/were with the verb form ending in -ing.

The explorer was explaining the lastest discovery in Egypt when protests began on the streets.

Future Progressive Tense

Future progressive tense describes an ongoing or continuous action that will take place in the future. This tense is formed by using will be or shall be with the verb form ending in -ing.

Dr. Jones will be presenting ongoing research on sexist language next week.

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