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Subject Verb Agreement

Aim: This exercise is to help you to with grammar problems regarding agreement.

Introduction:
One of the most common types of grammatical error in Hong Kong students' English is called 'agreement'. Agreement means that the verb changes depending on the type of noun it refers to. See below for examples. The grammar rules for agreement are reasonably clear and simple, and therefore, because these mistakes are so common in Hong Kong students' English, you can show that your English is superior if you follow the rules on this page.

Grammar
English regular present tense verbs have an 's' or 'es' on the end when the subject is he, she, it, a person, or a singular or uncountable noun; e.g. He likes, She jumps, It goes, Fred plays, the biscuit tastes good, Water flows. Irregular verbs also change, but differently; e.g. He does, She has, It is.

Examples:

  • 'I like him.' 'I' is singular and a first person pronoun, so the verb is 'like'.
  • 'She likes him.' 'She' is singular, but a third person pronoun (so are 'it' and 'he'), so the verb is 'likes'.
  • 'This student likes grammar.' 'Student' is a singular noun, so the verb is 'likes'.
  • 'The dog likes him.' ‘The dog' is a thing, and is singular, so the verb is 'likes'.
  • 'Dogs like him.' 'Dogs' is a plural noun, so the verb is 'like'.
  • 'The food here tastes nice'. 'Food' is uncountable, so use a verb that matches third person singular.
  • 'Beer is cheap.' 'Beer is an uncountable noun in this sentence, so use 'is'.
  • 'These two beers are nice, but that one is horrible'. This means 'These two types of beer', so because there are two types, and types of beer are countable, use 'are'. Drinks are often uncountable, but countable when they are types, in bottles or glasses; e.g. "Can I have an orange juice?"

Notes:

  1. After words such as 'must' and 'will' use an infinitive verb without 'to'; e.g. "He must tell me what happens."
  2. The main verb should agree with the main noun, e.g. in “The research in these reports shows that I am correct.", the verb shows agrees with research, as research is the main noun in the noun phrase The research in these reports. Research is an uncountable noun, so shows has an 's' at the end.
  3. Tense is more important than the number of subjects; e.g. The software will arrive tomorrow. Even though software is uncountable, and therefore should be followed by a verb with 's' at the end, tomorrow is more important, so the tense of the verb (will arrive) shows the tense.
     

Exercise
Choose the correct word from the drop-down list:

  1. People in this bar often beer.

     

    Answer:
    People in this bar often order beer.

    Explanation:
    People is a plural noun, so the correct verb is order. People is the subject of the sentence, not this bar, because in this bar is a short form of the relative clause who are in this bar.

     

  2. An expert who something is called a connoisseur.

     

    Answer:
    An expert who likes something is called a connoisseur.

    Explanation:
    An expert is a singular noun, so the verb should end in an 's'.

     

  3. The staff a bonus at Chinese New Year.

     

    Answer:
    The staff expect a bonus at Chinese New Year.

    Explanation:
    The staff is equivalent to 'they' in this case, because all of them expect bonuses. Even though the sentence has a bonus, this means a bonus for each member of staff. Bonuses would mean that each member of staff would expect more than one bonus; e.g. an annual bonus and a productivity bonus.

     

  4. There a number of different causes for this.

     

    Answer:
    There are a number of different causes for this.

    Explanation:
    As causes is plural, the verb should agree. Note: a number of  is followed by a plural, not a singular. If cause were singular, the verb would also be singular; e.g. 'There is a single cause for this.'

     

  5. This  because of a number of factors.

     

    Answer:
    This is because of a number of factors.

    Explanation:
    This refers to a situation, and a situation is almost always singular.

     

  6. For the past 5 years his experience been valuable to our company.

     

    Answer:
    For the past 5 years his experience has been valuable to our company.

    Explanation:
    Experience is a singular noun, and it is this experience that is the subject of the sentence.

     

  7. Marketing information important to all businesses.

     

    Answer:
    Marketing information is important to all businesses.

    Explanation:
    Information is uncountable, and therefore acts like a singular verb for agreement.

     

  8. He the experience necessary for promotion.

     

    Answer:
    He lacks the experience necessary for promotion.

    Explanation:
    Lack  is a normal verb, so after the pronoun He regular verbs take an 's' on the end. Click here for more information on lack / lack of.

     

  9. She would to make a suggestion.

     

    Answer:
    She would like to make a suggestion.

    Explanation:
    After would use an infinitive verb.

     

  10. One of the best staff next Tuesday.

     

    Answer:
    One of the best staff leaves / is leaving / will leave / is going to leave next Tuesday.

    Explanation:
    As one of the is equivalent to a singular noun, so the verb is leaves. Other tenses that are used to describe the future are also possible.

     

  11. Research  an important job of people in marketing.

     

    Answer:
    Research is an important job of people in marketing.

    Explanation:
    Research is an uncountable noun, and is used in the same way as a singular noun.

     

  12. He how to satisfy demanding customers.

     

    Answer:
    He knows how to satisfy demanding customers.

    Explanation:
    He is a third-person pronoun, so present tense regular verbs that follow it end in an 's'.

     

  13. Most of our customers from mainland China.

     

    Answer:
    Most of our customers come from mainland China.

    Explanation:
    Most of our customers is a plural number of customers. This subject can be replaced with They.

     

  14. The evidence in these statistics clear.

     

    Answer:
    The evidence in these statistics is clear.

    Explanation:
    Evidence is uncountable. Evidence is the subject of the sentence, and in these statistics is a relative clause which is a short form of which can be found in these statistics.

     

  15. The equipment yesterday.

     

    Answer:
    The equipment arrived yesterday.

    Explanation:
    Due to the fact that yesterday shows that this event happened in the past, and has finished, the tense of the verb should be past tense.

     

  16. They want someone who a full set of accounts.

     

    Answer:
    They want someone who handles / can handle a full set of accounts.

    Explanation:
    As someone refers to a single person, handles is correct. This use of the simple present means someone who usually handles a full set of accounts. However, someone who can handle means someone who has the ability to handle a full set of accounts.

     

  17. Your total score is:

 

Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012