Walk This Way
Now you know the main rules of agreement, so the rest of this business must be a piece of cake. Not so fast. Follow these three steps to check whether subjects and verbs in your sentences really agree:
Quoth the Maven
The words there or here at the beginning of a sentence often signal inverted word order.
Here's where the problems occur:
Let's look at each step in the process.
Remember that a predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun that follows a linking verb. It renames or identifies the subject.
Hide and Seek
Some subjects can be harder to find than Judge Crater, Bigfoot, or Jimmy Hoffa. Foremost among these hard-to-find subjects is the subject that has the nerve to come after the verb. Inverted word order can make it difficult to find the true subject. But wherever the subject is, it still must agree in number with its verb, as these examples show:
Danger, Will Robinson
Most measurements are singular—even though they look plural. For example: “Half a dollar is more than enough” (not “are more than enough”) or “Ten inches is more than enough” (not “are more than enough”).
Another tricky agreement situation occurs with linking verbs. As with all other verbs, a linking verb always agrees with its subject. Problems crop up when the subject and the linking verb (the predicate nominative) are not the same number. For example, the subject can be plural but the linking verb can be singular. Here's an example:
Playing the Numbers
As you learned in the beginning of this section, in grammar, number refers to the two forms of a word: singular (one) or plural (more than one). With nouns, number is relatively easy to figure out. That's because most nouns form the plural by adding -s or -es. Here are some examples.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match
Forget everything you learned about nouns when you start dealing with verbs. That's because we add -s or -es to the third-person singular form of most verbs. This is opposite to the way we form singular nouns. For example:
The helping verbs are even nastier because they aren't regular. The following chart shows the forms of to be.
As a result, subject-verb agreement is most tricky in the present tense.
Mix and Match
You know the drill, so sharpen your pencils and get crackin' with the following 10 items. In each case, choose the verb that agrees with the subject.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.