Manuscript Drafting: Why is Subject-Verb Agreement Important?

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  Nov 20, 2017   Enago Academy
  : Academic Writing, Language & Grammar
Subject-Verb Agreement

In academic writing, grammar and sentence construction are of paramount importance. While this is also true for informal pieces of writing, grammar mistakes in academic writing can instantly reduce the credibility of the author. Therefore, it is important to ensure that subjects and verbs always agree with each other. The relationship between subjects and verbs lie at the heart of grammatically correct English writing. Subject-verb agreement unifies a sentence and makes it easier to understand.

Subject-Verb Agreement in Academic Writing

A subject denotes the person or thing that acts, whereas a verb denotes the existence, action or occurrence. For instance:

George played.

She brushed her hair.

He reviewed for the exams.

Christine renewed her license.

In each of these sentences, it is clear to the reader who performed the action. It is also clear what they did. The subject-verb agreement in each of these sentences is clear and the reader is not left wondering who did the action and what they did. It becomes clear that subject-verb agreement is essential and even critical in all forms of English writing. Why should you care? Well, for starters, the purpose of writing is to get your message across and this won’t be possible if your reader doesn’t understand what you are trying to say. Secondly, it is always a good idea to practice proper grammar in writing because it makes you credible.

Writing Conventions Involving Subject-Verb Agreements

The first rule in making your subjects and verbs agree is that the subject has to match with the verb. Since there are many forms of subjects and verbs, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. In general, if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural as well:

Joshua talks. (Singular)

The women talk. (Plural)

Regular verbs written in the present tense when converted to plural omit the use of s at the end of each verb. In the past tense, however, verbs do not change:

I played. (Singular)

They played. (Plural)

The trick to making your subject and verb agree with each other is to identify the quantity of your subject and match the verb to it.  However, there are phrases which are not as easily calculated. For instance:

Everyone changes their mind.

No one greets the waiter.

No one saves the day.

The previous sentences denote indefinite pronouns. In these instances, it is good to remember that anyone, everybody, everyone, nobody, no one, and someone are always taken as singular and they need to be accompanied by singular verbs. It’s always tempting to think that everybody is a plural subject. However, it refers to singulars in that it refers to each and every person in a crowd. Therefore, it is singular. On the other hand, indefinite pronouns like all or some can either be singular or plural.

All of the dogs barked.

Some of the bees landed on the flower.

All and some can refer to things that cannot be counted, and therefore agree with singular verbs:

All of the air escaped.

Some of the water spilled.

Subject-Verb Agreements in Instances

Many nouns seem like plural nouns, and these are instances where anomalies in the English language can be observed. These nouns look plural but actually count as singular nouns. Improving your writing requires understanding these instances to ensure grammatical correctness.

The party starts at 9 o’clock.

The crowd cheers on.

The team remains calm.

It should be noted that if the members of the noun are not acting in unity as a group, then the noun should be treated as plural and matches with a plural verb.

After the movie, viewers exit their seats.

The jury are hesitant about the plaintiff.

However, not all such collective nouns become plural. For instance:

Thousands of voters attend.

The moviegoers line up.

When in doubt, you can add a modifying word or use a different word entirely:

Members of the party enter the building.

The moviegoers enter the cinema.

Nouns that denote amounts of time, money, and distance are treated as singulars:

Eight thousand dollars is more than I will pay for a bag.

Nine kilometers was the most I could run.

Twelve hours was a long time to wait.

However, fractions are singular if they are used to modify singular nouns. They are plural if they are used to modify plural nouns:

A fourth of the audience did not like the performance.

Fifty percent of the book is composed of pictures.

Using neither or either is always accompanied by singular verbs:

Neither of the dogs is black.

Either the restaurant or the café is fine with me.

How Subject-Verb Agreements Affect Academic Writing

Using these conventions is important for proper English writing. In academic writing, neglecting subject-verb agreements has serious consequences. These include not getting your message across, confusing your readers, and reducing your credibility. Academic writing is characterized by perfect syntax, sentence structure, and grammar. These things cannot be ignored and you need to pay attention to your subject-verb agreements when writing your manuscript.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, but not as hard as it looks either. However, it is essential and even critical for you to master. Study these rules and you’ll be on your way.

Do you get confused when using subject-verb agreements? How difficult or easy do you find to implement these rule? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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