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Subject and Verb Agreement

Subject and Verb Agreement

 

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Common Core Language Standards: K-5 L.1.f.

Pre-teaching: The subject is the “do-er” of the sentence. It tells whom or what the sentence is about. The simple subject is the common noun, proper noun, or pronoun that the verb acts upon. The complete subject includes additional words that describe the simple subject. The compound subject describes a subject with two or more nouns or pronouns.

The predicate is the verb that does the work of the “do-er” of the sentence. The predicate shows a physical or mental action or it describes a state of being. The simple predicate is the verb that acts upon the subject of the sentence. The complete predicate includes additional words that modify the predicate. The compound predicate describes a predicate with two or more verbs.

To identify the subject and predicate in a sentence, first look for the main verb and then ask “Who?” or “What?” The answer is the subject and the main verb is the predicate. Check to make sure that the subject is not part of a prepositional phrase or dependent clause. The subject and predicate must be part of an independent clause.

Definitions and Examples: When we say that the subject and verb must agree, we mean that they must match in number. A singular subject must match a singular verb. A plural subject must match a plural verb.

Singular Agreement

  1. A singular subject agrees with (matches) a singular verb and involves a single person, place, or thing. In the present tense nouns add an s to the singular form. For example, A songbird sings.
  2. Collective nouns are words that suggest more than one, but that are considered singular if they act as one unit and not as individuals. Collective nouns take a singular verb. For example, The herd is large.
  3. Be careful to match subject (nominative) case pronouns to their proper helping verbs: Singular I matches am, was, have, and had. Singular he, she, it, and you match is, was, has, and had. For example, He was my friend.
  4. These indefinite pronouns take singular verbs: anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, one, someone, somebody, and something. For example, Each tries hard.
  5. These words or phrases do not form compound subjects and so the two nouns that they connect take singular verbs: or, nor, together with, as well as, and along with, as with, including, in addition to. For example, Blue or green is my favorite color.
  6. Some words end in s, but are still singular. For example, Mathematics seems bad, but measles are definitely worse.

Plural Agreement

  1. A plural subject agrees with (matches) a plural verb and involves more than one person, place, or thing. In present tense the plural nouns do not end in s. For example, Birds chirp.
  2. Be careful to match subject (nominative) case pronouns to their proper helping verbs: Plural we and they match are, were, and had. Plural you matches are, were, have, and had. For example, We were watching the game.
  3. Some words seem to be singular, but are actually plural because they each have two parts: scissors, tweezers, pants, and shears. For example, The tweezers are in the top drawer.
  4. Sports teams not ending in s are plural and require plural verbs. For example, The Orlando Magic have been looking for a point guard.
  5. A compound subject joined by and is plural and takes a plural verb. For example, Bob and Pam are friends.
  6. These indefinite pronouns take plural verbs: both, few, many, others, and several. For example, Others ask to attend.

Special Cases

  1. When a compound subject contains both a singular and a plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb. For example, Neither the boy nor the girls like the teacher.
  2. In sentences beginning with there is or there are, the subject follows the verb. Since there is not the subject, the verb agrees with what follows. For example, There is a spider.
  3. These amount or measurement pronouns take singular or plural verbs depending upon surrounding word clues: half of, a part of, a percentage of, a majority of, all, any, more, most, some, any, and none. For example, A percentage of time is devoted to study.

Writing Style Hints: Avoid using verbs that act upon the subject as this creates the passive voice. Instead, use verbs which perform the action of the subject to use the active voice.

Practice: Correct the following errors in subject-verb agreement by changing either the subject of the verb and explain in your own words how the singular, plural, or special case subject-verb agreement rule applies.

  1. He like me.
  2. The group are friendly.
  3. He have a lot of problems.
  4. Everyone know the answer.
  5. John or Pablo want the pie.
  6. Mumps were a childhood disease.
  7. The dogs barks all the time.
  8. They has much to learn.
  9. The pliers is in the toolbox.
  10. The Oklahoma Thunder remains in first place.
  11. Pete and Bobby walks to town.
  12. Several choices attracts the buyers.
  13. Potato chips or a cookie are included in the meal.
  14. There are a real problem here.
  15. A majority of players has wives who travel with the team.

Formative Assessment Dictations: Write the following dictations, correcting or leaving “as is” the verbs in each sentence.

  1. She loves him.
  2. The flock fly in a v-formation.
  3. They just seems to have the answers.
  4. Nothing helps the situation.
  5. Frank, Rosa, or William needs to bring dinner.
  6. Measles is a bad disease.
  7. Her pants was two sizes too big.
  8. You all have done your best.
  9. The scissors need to be sharpened.
  10. The Orlando Magic have to win this game.
  11. Sue and Mark love their new home.
  12. Few does as much as that man.
  13. Baseballs or a football are in the basket.
  14. There is an ending to this nightmare.
  15. Any of the five solutions works just fine.

Answers:

  1. She loves him.
  2. The flock flies in a v-formation.
  3. They just seem to have the answers.
  4. Nothing helps the situation.
  5. Frank, Rosa, or William needs to bring dinner.
  6. Measles is a bad disease.
  7. Her pants were two sizes too big.
  8. You all have done your best.
  9. The scissors need to be sharpened.
  10. The Orlando Magic has to win this game.
  11. Sue and Mark love their new home.
  12. Few do as much as that man.
  13. Baseballs or a football is in the basket.
  14. There is an ending to this nightmare.
  15. Any of the five solutions works just fine.

Writing Application: Compose a paragraph using any of singular, plural, or special case subject-verb agreement rules that you missed on the formative assessment.

Related Language Standards: Verbs

The author of the Pennington Publishing Blog, Mark Pennington, has written a comprehensive Grades 4-12 language series to teach each of the grade-level Common Core Language Standards in 60—90 instructional minutes per week. Teaching the Language Strand (of the Common Core State Standards) provides interactive grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling lessons, a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary instruction. Simple sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications with sentence combining and sentence manipulation, and formative assessments are woven into each lesson. Students learn to apply these language standards in both the writing and reading contexts. Each instructional component includes diagnostic assessments and remedial worksheets to help the teacher easily differentiate instruction. Previews of the grade-level teacher guides and student workbooks are available on the author’s website.

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