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Welcome to this week's writing lesson from

 MyEnglishTeacher.net

I Agree With You!

Lesson Topic: Subject-Verb Agreement and Some Exceptions

Look at the following 2 sentences:
I are on the bus.
Jamie and Tom am with me.


Are there any problems with these sentences? Of course there are! What is the subject of the first sentence? A subject is the noun or pronoun (or person, place, or thing) that the sentence is about.  It is sometimes called the performer.  In other words, the subject is also the thing that is performing.  Therefore, the subject of the first sentence is
I. What is the verb (action word) that goes with the subject? You're right! It is are (a form of the verb to be). Is are the correct verb? Should we use are with I. No. 

When a subject is with its correct verb, we called this
subject-verb agreement. Consequently, the above 2 sentences have problems with subject-verb agreement. 

If we assume the verb tense is correct, to fix the above 2 sentences' subject-verb agreement problems, we would have to write

I am on the bus.
Jamie and Tom are with me.

We know that these 2 sentences are correct because we have learned the following grammatical rules:

if the subject is singular, use am or is
if the subject is plural, use are

These rules are correct, but there are times when subject-verb agreement isn't so easy and clear.
Remember this rule: It is the subject that determines the verb. Take a look at this example and choose the correct verb:

My friend from Tokyo who has lots of dogs and cats   is/are    a computer genius.

What is the subject?
My friend from Tokyo.
Is
My friend from Tokyo singular or plural? It is singular. Therefore, use is

There are words between the subject and the verb (in this case it is an adjective clause), but that doesn't matter. The rule still stands: It is the subject that determines the verb.

We will present some other common (and confusing) mistakes. 

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Rule #1

Use a singular verb after each, neither, everyone, everybody, nobody, and someone
Nobody is here.
Everybody helps when there is a crisis.
Somebody wants to speak to you.

Rule #2

If you use either-or, look at the subject closest to the verb.  If the subject closest to the verb is singular, use a singular verb; likewise, if the subject is plural, use a plural verb.

Either Miss Brown or Jane writes on the blackboard.

Either the teacher or the students write on the blackboard.

This also applies to not only. . .but also, and neither. . .nor.  The subject closest to the verb determines whether the verb is singular or plural.

Not only Julie but also Georgette wants to visit grandma.

Not only Julie but also all of the grandchildren want to visit grandma.

Neither Miss Brown n or Jane writes on the blackboard.

Neither the teacher n or the students write on the blackboard.

Rule #3

When using as well as, except, in addition to, no less than, and with, the noun before these phrases determines the number.

My problem with you is you don't listen!

Ford in addition to Mercedes Benz is lowering its car prices to encourage better sales.

The students in addition to the teacher are all receiving special recognition for their excellent research.  

Rule #4

Measurements of money, time, and distance usually require a singular verb.
One hundred dollars is a lot of money for a bottle of wine.
Two hours is a long time to wait to see a doctor.
93,000,000 miles is the distance from the sun to the earth.

Rule #5

The following words almost always use the plural form of verbs: all, both, few, many, several, and some.
Some people in my office are very annoying
Few mountain climbers have successfully reached the peak of Mt. Everest. 

Rule #6

The word none needs special attention. Sometimes it uses a singular verb, and at other times, it uses a plural verb. When none means no one or not one, use the singular form of the verb. 
None of them is able to do that job.

When none means or suggests more than one thing or person, use the plural form of the verb.
None are helpless because they can always try.

Rule #7

Here and there canNOT be subjects. Therefore, if a sentence begins with here or there, look for the subject and write the correct form of the verb.
Here is my jacket. (jacket is singular)
Here are my shoes. (shoes is plural)

Rule #8

When the word number is preceded with the word a, use a plural verb.  When the word number is preceded with the word the, use a singular verb.

A number of people are waiting to see you.

The number of stars in the sky seems countless.

 

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Quiz time

Directions: Select the correct form of the verb in the sentence.

1.  Some people  is/are/am  very good at math.

2.  Somebody   have/has    the winning lottery ticket.

3.  The doctor who has visited dozens of countries and has helped thousands of patients all around the world   is/are/am   over there.

4.  There   is/are/am   two sides to every argument.

5.  5,280 feet   is/are/am   a mile. 

6.  Jill as well as Jack   is/are/am   up the hill.

7.  Either Heather or I   go/goes  .

8.  A:  There   is/are/am   a lot of people here.

     B:  Yeah.  Everybody   is/are/am   here for you.  All of them   is/are/am   waiting to listen to your speech.

9.  Ten dollars   is/are/am   a nice raise.  I need the extra money.  

10.  Rice   is/are/am   a common food all over the world.  It   is/are/am   very cheap.  Two bags of rice   cost/costs  only 7. 

11.  Either the bus driver or the motorcycle rider is/are/am responsible for the accident.

12.  Neither the 23 children in the class nor Tony seem/seems to be upset about failing the spelling bee.

13.  A large number of countries is/are/am members of the United Nations.

14.  Not only the fans but also the team's head coach was/were shocked to be in the championship game.

15.  The number of computer advances is/are/am increasing every year.

 

Answers are in red.

1.  Some people   are   very good at math.

(see rule #5)

2.  Somebody 
  has    the winning lottery ticket.

(see rule #1)

3.  The doctor who has visited dozens of countries and has helped thousands of patients all around the world 
  is   over there.

The subject is doctor.  The verb is is.  All of the words between doctor and is form to make an adjective clause that describes doctor.  

4.  There 
  are   two sides to every argument.

(see rule #7)

5.  5,280 feet 
  is   a mile. 

(see rule #4)

6.  Jill as well as Jack 
  is   up the hill.

(see rule #3)

7.  Either Heather or I 
  go   .

(see rule #2)

8.  A:  There 
  are   a lot of people here.

     B:  Yeah.  Everybody   is   here for you.  All of them   are   waiting to listen to your speech.

(see rules 7, 1, and 5)

9.  Ten dollars   is   a nice raise.  I need the extra money.  

(see rule #4)

10.  Rice 
  is   a common food all over the world.  It   is   very cheap.  Two bags of rice   cost    only 7. 

(see "rules to remember #3" below)

11.  Either the bus driver or the motorcycle rider is responsible for the accident. 

(see rule #2)

12.  Neither the 23 children in the class nor Tony seems to be upset about failing the spelling bee.

(see rule #2)

13.  A large number of countries are members of the United Nations.

(see rule #8)

14.  Not only the fans but also the team's head coach was shocked to be in the championship game.

(see rule #2)

15.  The number of computer advances is increasing every year.

(see rule #8)

 

  Rules to Remember!

1 Some nouns can be both singular and plural depending on the intended meaning. Thus, as the writer/speaker, you must think about what you want to say and what you mean. For example, the word Chinese can be both singular and plural. Take a look:

Chinese has about 30,000 characters. (Here, Chinese means the language, which is singular.)

The Chinese have to learn at least 5,000 characters in order to read a newspaper. (Here, Chinese means Chinese people, which is plural.)
2 Some grammar rules require a certain verb regardless of number. For example, we normally say, "I was in Malaysia last summer." This is a true and real statement.

However, if it were not true or a hypothetical statement, you would be required to use
were instead of was.

If I were in Malaysia last summer, I would have visited you.

In actuality, the speaker was NOT in Malaysia; he was just giving a hypothetical situation and presenting what he would have done if he had been in Malaysia.
3

Non-count nouns require a singular verb.  

     Milk is important for healthy bones.

Milk is a non-count noun (you can't count it).  Therefore the verb is is singular.  However, if there is a container, and the container is plural, the verb must be plural.

     The two bottles of milk are in the refrigerator.  

In the above sentence, the subject is bottlesBottles, which is a container, is plural.  Therefore, the verb are is plural.  

4 The verb in an adjective clause must agree with the subject it is referring to.

     The actors who are from China are attending the awards ceremony tonight.

The adjective clause is who are from China; the subject is actors.  The word are must agree with actors.

For more information about adjective clauses, click here see our lesson on this subject.

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