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As a copy editor, one of the most important grammar concepts I come across is subject-verb agreement. It may seem like a simple concept, but it can be tricky, especially when dealing with complex sentences. In this article, I’ll delve into the details of subject-verb agreement and provide tips for ensuring your writing is grammatically correct.

What is subject-verb agreement?

Subject-verb agreement is the relationship between the subject of the sentence and the verb. Simply put, the verb must agree with the subject in terms of number (singular or plural). For example, in the sentence “The cat chases the mouse”, “cat” is the subject and “chases” is the verb. In this case, the verb “chases” agrees with the singular subject “cat”.

The rest of subject-verb agreement

While number agreement is the most common aspect of subject-verb agreement, there are other factors that can impact the agreement between the subject and verb. The following are some of the less-known aspects of subject-verb agreement:

1. Indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns, such as everyone, anybody, and nobody, are singular and require a singular verb. For example, “Everyone is welcome to join the party” is correct, while “Everyone are welcome to join the party” is incorrect.

2. Collective nouns

Collective nouns, such as team, family, and staff, can be either singular or plural depending on the context. When the collective noun refers to the group as a single entity, it takes a singular verb. For example, “The team is excited about the game” uses a singular verb because the team is being referred to as a single entity. When the collective noun refers to the individuals within the group, it takes a plural verb. For example, “The team are arguing about strategy” uses a plural verb because the team members are being referred to as individuals.

3. Compound subjects

Compound subjects are two or more subjects joined by a conjunction such as “and” or “or”. When the compound subject is joined by “and”, the verb is plural. For example, “John and Sarah are going to the party”. When the compound subject is joined by “or” or “nor”, the verb agrees with the subject closest to it. For example, “Neither John nor Sarah is going to the party”.

4. Inverted sentences

Inverted sentences occur when the subject comes after the verb, usually for emphasis or to form a question. In this case, the verb agrees with the subject, even though it comes after the verb. For example, “Out of the bushes came the lion” uses a singular verb because the subject “lion” is singular.

Tips for ensuring subject-verb agreement

1. Identify the subject and determine if it is singular or plural.

2. Determine the verb based on the subject. If the subject is singular, use a singular verb. If the subject is plural, use a plural verb.

3. Be careful with indefinite pronouns and collective nouns.

4. Watch for compound subjects and inverted sentences.

5. Always proofread your writing for subject-verb agreement errors.

In conclusion, subject-verb agreement is an important concept to understand for any writer. Understanding the less-known aspects of subject-verb agreement and following these tips can help improve the quality of your writing and ensure it is grammatically correct.