What are some difficult subject-verb agreement errors?

This is the fourth and final lesson about Subject-Verb Agreement. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Discuss how subject-verb agreement errors can be avoided

– Introduce seven difficult subject-verb agreement errors

– Provide examples of each error type to guide the learner

Lesson 4

The final lesson for this topic should help you to recognise the remaining subject-verb agreement errors that may be limiting your fluency in English. The following seven error types might be more difficult to spot than those in the previous lesson, but they’re still easy enough to fix once you know how.

 

1. Collective Nouns

There is a certain type of noun such as ‘staff’ or ‘family’ which represents a group or collective, and these nouns can cause problems for learners of English when attempting agree subjects with verbs. Ultimately, these collective nouns may be either singular or plural depending on what they’re referring to (as well as the writer or speaker’s intention). This is shown in the following examples:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.1 Collective Nouns
Subject-Verb Agreement 4.2 Collective Nouns

In these examples, we can see that the first sentence uses the collective noun plurally to indicate the members within the group, whereas in the second example that noun is singular to indicate the same group but as a collective

 

2. Expletive Constructions

The following two examples are expletive constructions, which are structures that begin with words such as ‘there’ or ‘here’. Although ‘there’ and ‘here’ might look like the subjects of the clause because of their fronted position, they are in fact not:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.3 Expletive Constructions

As can be seen in these examples, the subject of the clause follows the verb in these constructions. To determine agreement you must therefore first determine the correct subject before forming the agreement for person or number.

 

3. Intervening Words

Certain phrases such as ‘together with’, ‘along with’ and ‘as well as’ may be used to join two noun phrases together in what appears to be one subject:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.4 Intervening Words

However, as is noticeable in these examples, unlike when using ‘and’ to join two such noun phrases, when we use intervening words such as ‘as well as’ the verb only agrees with the true subject– which is the first noun phrase, ‘the cat’. If, for example, we used the plural ‘cats’, the verb would be required to agree plurally:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.5 Intervening Words

However, as is noticeable in these examples, unlike when using ‘and’ to join two such noun phrases, when we use intervening words such as ‘as well as’ the verb only agrees with the true subject – which is the first noun phrase, ‘the cat’. If, for example, we used the plural ‘cats’, the verb would be required to agree plurally:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.6 Parenthesis

5. Numbers and Units

When writing or speaking about amounts of money, lengths of time, or distances as units, and when the main noun is preceded by a number, you should always use a singular form of the verb if you wish to maintain correct agreement. This is true even though the subject may appear to be plural:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.7 Numbers and Units

5. Numbers and Units

When writing or speaking about amounts of money, lengths of time, or distances as units, and when the main noun is preceded by a number, you should always use a singular form of the verb if you wish to maintain correct agreement. This is true even though the subject may appear to be plural:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.8 Numbers and Units

6. Fractions and Portions

When using words that indicate fractions or portions such as ‘some’, ‘all’ or ‘a lot’, the subject will often appear to be embedded in a prepositional phrase using ‘of’. Unlike as was explained in Lesson 3.6, here we do need to pay attention to the noun phrase that follows ‘of’ as this is our subject:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.9 Fractions and Portions
Subject-Verb Agreement 4.10 Fractions and Portions

7. The Subjunctive Mood

Finally, although rarely found in English these days, the subjunctive mood, which is generally used to express wishes or situations which aren’t true, can cause some difficulty as it does not follow the normal rules of subject-verb agreement. In this mood, singular subjects are paired with plural verbs such as in the following examples. Such mood is particularly common with the ‘be’ verb:

Subject-Verb Agreement 4.11 The Subjunctive Mood
Subject-Verb Agreement 4.12 The Subjunctive Mood

However, many speakers of English these days do not follow this rule themselves. Nevertheless, if you wish to be prescriptively perfect or score extra points with your teacher when forming subject-verb agreement, then you should practise and follow all the guidance we’ve provided in Lessons 1-4. 

4 of 4 Lessons Completed

Materials

Once you’ve completed all four lessons about subject-verb agreement, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Our subject-verb agreement guidance sheet (including all four lessons about this topic) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

Gain unlimited access to our subject-verb agreement beginner worksheet, with activities and answer keys designed to check a basic understanding of this topic’s lessons.

To check a confident understanding of this topic’s lessons, click on the button below to download our subject-verb agreement intermediate worksheet with activities and answer keys.

Our subject-verb agreement advanced worksheet with activities and answer keys has been created to check a sophisticated understanding of this topic’s lessons. 

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Media

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Click on the button below to gain unlimited access to our subject-verb agreement teacher’s PowerPoint, which should include everything you’d need to successfully introduce this topic.

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