Subject and Verb Agreement

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

I recently read the following statement in a written report: Stark evidence of such killings are held in mass graves . . . Evidence are held? Really?

When I write these blogs on grammar, I frequently wonder whether schools even teach diagramming sentences these days. Whoever wrote that statement obviously had no idea how to diagram it.

The verb are is the present plural form of to be. It is to be used only when the subject of the sentence is plural.

The noun evidence is the subject of the sentence, and it is singular. It demands a singular form of whatever verb is used in the sentence. The only way it could use a plural verb is if it is paired with another noun to make a compound sentence, such as The evidence and testimony indicate . . .

Apparently the person who wrote this paired the plural verb with killings, which in this sentence is the object of the preposition of. It is certainly not the subject of the sentence, and whether there are multiple killings or just one has no bearing on the verb in the sentence.

We know that a lot of the people who read our work—probably even the vast majority—are not grammar experts. They wouldn’t know what agreement of subject and verb means. But we can’t assume no one who reads our blogs or books knows the difference. We don’t want to appear ignorant to those who do know, so it’s important that we write grammatically correct pieces.

We need to be careful that the nouns or pronouns we use as subjects of our sentences and the verbs we use in the predicates agree with each other in number.

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For more information about David N. Walker, click the “About” tag above.

For more information about his book, click the “Heaven Sent” tag above.

Contact him at davwalktx@yahoo.com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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15 Responses to Subject and Verb Agreement

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  5. A automatic grammar checker would have caught that one, though it wouldn’t catch all errors. Do people even bother to notice when their grammar checker underlines a word or phrase?

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  6. Marcia says:

    Excellent example, David! I’m stopped cold every time I read a sentence like that. What I do to check myself is remove the preposition and its object to see if the sentence sounds correct. Another mistake that bugs me is when people use ‘us’ instead of ‘we’. For example, “Us writers need these grammar lessons.” Again, I remove ‘writers’ to see how it sounds. Obviously, it would be correct as, “We writers need these grammar lessons.” Thanks for keeping us on our toes!

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  7. David – I’m counting on you to keep me on the straight and narrow. I ‘need’ your grammer posts. BTW – Tribber refuses to allow me to sign into the Tribe. However – it has me signed in as someone I’ve never heard of. I so don’t want other members to think I’m ignoring them – I’m not. Hope to resolve the problem soon.

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  8. I’m sure if you mention the word “predicate” to most young people today, they would respond with a resounding “huh?”. Keep giving us these excellent reminders, David. Thanks!

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  9. Lynn says:

    None of my children has ever had to diagram a sentence. I guess that skill has been left behind, but it really helped me visualize how grammar worked. I am in favor of resurrecting sentence diagramming!

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  10. Karlene says:

    Once again, another great post. And, I’m thinking that we should start a movement… “Friends don’t let friends mess up their subject verb agreement.” Thanks for the lesson.

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