Subject-Verb Agreement

Crowd Content Grammar School

In this Grammar School series, we’re going to give you a quick overview of some of the lessons you will find at Crowd Content University. Today, we’re discussing subject-verb agreement.

As a writer, nothing is more important than grammar. However, sometimes even the best writer struggles with some of the grammar rules.

Subject-Verb agreement is one of those grammar concepts that seem simple, but can actually be quite challenging. Whether you are a seasoned grammar expert or a newbie to the writing game, a quick refresher on subject-verb agreement can really help you out.

Here’s a sneak peak at the lesson.

The Basics

In this lesson, you’ll learn the basics of subject-verb agreement, which should be mastered before you move on to the more complicated concepts. Identifying the primary subject and the verb and making sure they match one another is the key takeaway from this part of the lesson.

Adding In Conjunctions

Grammar concepts are easy enough to master with basic and simple sentences. However, it is when you begin to add more diversity and complexity to those sentences that you run into challenges.

What you can expect to learn next in this lesson is how to begin adding in conjunctions while ensuring your subject and verb still agree. The words “and,” “or,” and “nor” can all make it challenging to make your verbs and subjects agree with one another.

Indefinite Pronouns and Other Challenges

Finally, the lesson moves on to concepts that are particularly challenging. Even the best writers in the business may have trouble with the use of words like “none” and “nobody” when they are the subject of a sentence.

Reviewing the concept of subject-verb agreement can ensure that you are always on-point with your writing. When you are finished this lesson, there will be no sentence that you cannot structure properly.

More Grammar School sneak peaks coming soon.

In the meantime, why not head over to Crowd Content University to learn more about subject-verb agreement, or share your thoughts comments section below.

Laura Dohan

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Laura is the Marketing and Community Manager at Crowd Content. She manages over 2000 content writers, content marketing, advertising, and community at Crowd Content. You'll see her popping in on the Crowd Content blog and on twitter, @laurdoh.

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auntieemily
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auntieemily

Sounds like good stuff to learn. I know that I should focus on learning more about grammar – there is always something more to be learned in that regard.

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

I thought I was done learning about grammar when I finished school. It’s a good thing I was wrong.

Rob Toccs
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Rob Toccs

I just began learning grammar when I finished school!

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

Sorry that you didn’t have the opportunity to learn it in the place you were supposed to.

Linnea S.
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Linnea S.

It’s the collective nouns that get confusing: the jury, the class, the team, etc. It’s easy to get those wrong, because using the singular or plural form of the verb can depend on the context.

Rob Toccs
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Rob Toccs

When does a collective noun take a plural verb, unless it’s plural (e.g. peoples)?

Linnea S.
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Linnea S.

When the members of the group are not acting in unison, the noun takes the plural form. It often sounds wrong that way to me – that’s why I find it confusing. Here’s an example. I’m paraphrasing from a grammar site: After the long practice, the team shower, change into their fresh clothes, and walk to their homes.

It's All Write
Guest
It's All Write

It’s evil examples like this that make me reword things to avoid having to deal with it. (Yes. It’s sad. I know.)

auntieemily
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auntieemily

I agree. I would reword a phrase like that one, too.

Linnea S.
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Linnea S.

This is the kind of example that really gives me a headache on grammar tests. No matter which form I think of using, they both begin to sound wrong.

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

Feeling like both options are wrong can be freeing in an odd way. If neither one seems right, why not just go with your gut?

Linnea S.
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Linnea S.

Yes, I agree! I’d just insert the word “members” in there to make it sound less awkward.

Christine Birch
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Christine Birch

Good example! One that keeps me awake at night is, “The jury *is/are* deliberating.” …do members deliberate in unison or separately? I can’t decide.

Linnea S.
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Linnea S.

Oh yes, that’s a tough one. I think of Julianna Margulies on “The Good Wife” saying dramatically, “The jury has returned to the courtroom!”

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

Were you a fan of that show? I’d always heard great things about it but never really had a chance to watch it. It appears most fans hated the series finale.

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

I found a lot of the legal cases on the show to be fascinating. Christine Baranski is a gifted comedienne, and my favorite episodes were ones where she got to be hilariously funny.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

You’re right that Baranski is a talented comedienne. She won an Emmy (out of four nominations) for her supporting role on the 1990s CBS sitcom “Cybill,” which starred Cybill Shepherd (who was reportedly jealous of the recognition Baranski received). I never saw much of that show, but I did see her give a very funny performance as a parody of Dr. Laura in a 1999 episode of “Frasier,” which earned her another Emmy nomination. She’s earned three Emmy nominations to date for her recurring role as Leonard’s mother on “The Big Bang Theory.” Some of her funniest film performances were… Read more »

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

Baranski was brilliantly funny in an episode of “The Good Wife” called “Red Meat”. She went on an outing with Kurt and some of his rich hunting buddies, hoping to score some wealthy new clients for her firm. They were all Republicans, and it was hilarious to see the sophisticated city lawyer dressed in hunting gear and making tongue-in-cheek comments to these folks whom she normally wouldn’t have anything to do with!

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

“The Good Wife” is on Amazon Prime, so I’ll have to catch the “Red Meat” episode. Even in the most intense television dramas there needs to be some comic relief.

Linnea S.
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Linnea S.

Thanks for alerting me to some of Baranski’s other work. I’ll definitely watch the Dr. Laura parody, and I’ll check out “The Ref”.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

If you have Netflix, you can watch the “Frasier” episode there. Season six, episode 20, “Dr. Nora.” I never really understood all the hoopla about “Frasier” and can’t for the life of me understand how it won five straight Outstanding Comedy Series Emmys, but that’s actually a very funny episode. Entertainment Weekly included “The Ref” on its “The 50 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen” list in 2012.

Rob Toccs
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Rob Toccs

I loved Fraiser!

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

According to the City University of New York School of Law’s Web site, “The word “jury” would take a singular verb when the jurors act in concert (“the jury decided that … “), it would take a plural verb when differences between the group are emphasized.” Hope this helps.

Christine Birch
Guest
Christine Birch

Thank you, CUNY Law. I’m glad someone is willing to make these grammatical decisions and let the rest of us know how to handle it! Sometimes it feels like writers are just trying to make up the rules as they go along.

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

What better source for a grammatical question about a jury than a law school?

Linnea S.
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Linnea S.

Your comment made me think: I wonder if big law firms have to have a few skilled proofreaders on staff. The firms produce reams of documents every week, and they must need checking. Hmmm, could there be a job opportunity there?

Rob Toccs
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Rob Toccs

Do paralegals do this?

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

Novelists especially! Just because people write fiction and don’t have a client to please, they seem to be able to decide what’s right and what’s not.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

Linnea, thanks for the clarification.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

Thanks for posting this. I didn’t realize CrowdContent had Writer University — it looks like a great resource!

Christine Birch
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Christine Birch

For new and seasoned writers alike! It’s tough to learn all these grammar rules that you don’t think about in everyday speech.

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

Maybe it would be helpful if we were required to follow the grammar rules in everyday speech. Of course, there would be no way to enforce that requirement.

auntieemily
Guest
auntieemily

Yeah, I am guessing that would help. But, it might prove frustrating. 😉

Rob Toccs
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Rob Toccs

Just try texting using proper grammar. It’s really frustrating!

auntieemily
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auntieemily

I’m sure that it would be!

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

But isn’t not having to use proper grammar one of the beauties of texting?

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

I don’t text if I can avoid it, and I usually can. I would use proper grammar on the rare occasion that I do text, if I could find all the correct keys.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

How do you communicate with others if you don’t text much?

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

I can hardly wait for texting to be replaced by something better. (Not sure what form that would take). People with vision problems and/or arthritis find texting challenging, even when using enlarged fonts and expanded virtual keyboards. Also, the spelling suggestion tool is always ready to embarrass you, by cleverly substituting “intercourse” for “intracoastal”, etc. That’s a real-life example.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

In-person meetings, phone calls, emails, letters. In that order, probably.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

Sounds like you’ve got it all covered. I didn’t know people still sent letters, but it’s nice to hear.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

Just like those who enforce the law, those who enforce proper grammar would be required to have an extremely high frustration tolerance.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

I speak publicly somewhat regularly, and my wife kept getting on me for saying “gonna” instead of “going to.” Then, I heard President Obama us “gonna.” I was vindicated!

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

If President Obama said it, then it must be OK. Unlike his predecessor, Obama isn’t known for mangling the English language.

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

Maybe I could get a job with the grammar police. “You’ve been overheard saying ‘lay’ when you should have said ‘lie’. Fifty dollar fine! Pay up!”

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

At a $50 fine, you’d be making less than minimum wage by the time you explained the difference between “lay” and “lie.”

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

And some people may not ever figure out the difference, regardless of how many times you explain it to them.

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

So true! Do you have a grammar pet peeve? Mine is “lie” vs. “lay”.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

My pet peeve is when people claim the passive voice is a grammatical error, which I’ve commented on previously on this blog.

Transitive and intransitive verbs are just fun! How could they possibly be a pet peeve?

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

An English professor friend of mine says that language is a constantly changing and evolving thing, and that we shouldn’t be judgmental about hearing grammatical “errors” in speech. I try to keep his words in mind, but sometimes it’s difficult.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

It is always changing and evolving. Evolution, however, isn’t always in a beneficial direction. There can be regression as well as advancement.

Rachel Elle
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Rachel Elle

That’s hard for me, too. I don’t care if ain’t is in some dictionaries; it’s still not a word in my mind!

Rachel Elle
Guest
Rachel Elle

I really like passive voice, but sometimes I think I’m the only one.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

We have all been silenced. You haven’t been deserted, though.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

What kind of training would you need to have to join the grammar police? Would there be a grammar police academy you could attend?

Christine Birch
Guest
Christine Birch

Would the fines be commensurate with the crime? Maybe you’d get marks like points on a driver’s license before your speaking/writing privileges are suspended or revoked.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

It would only be fair to give out points before suspending or revoking speaking and writing privileges.

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

Ha ha, that’s a good concept. I know of a certain local newscaster who should be wearing duct tape over his mouth right now as punishment for his grammar goofs.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

Are those gaffs on the newscaster or the typist working the teleprompter?

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

If a typist working the teleprompter makes that many mistakes, they should be fired. Good looks wouldn’t help a typist the way they would for on-air talent.

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

Yes, it could be the typist or the person who writes the news story in the first place. Do newscasters actually write the sentences that they read out loud? or is all the writing done by others?

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

If he’s handsome enough, it probably won’t matter how many grammatical errors he makes. Look at the 1987 movie “Broadcast News”: The brilliant but average-looking reporter played by Albert Brooks is passed over for anchorman in favor of the uneducated but handsome reporter played by William Hurt. Nearly 30 years later, that still rings true in real life.

Christine Birch
Guest
Christine Birch

The power to revoke anyone’s language use for grammatical infringements would quickly go to my head. I’m elated just thinking about it.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

I’d like to think I wouldn’t abuse the power, but who am I kidding?

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

For the first offense, the punishment could be just community service. The perp would have to help out in a sixth-grade classroom for a month or two.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

You mean a sixth-grade English class that was focusing on grammar, right? That’d be great.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

Some might find it preferable to pick up trash by the highway than dealing with sixth-graders. I’m sure I would.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

Lots of writing sites have such fines built in. Break too many rules and you’ll be demoted or banned. If only we could do that for the entire country. All the people with bad grammar could go to, I don’t know, South Dakota. (Sorry anyone who’s from South Dakota.)

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

According to census.gov, South Dakota had a population of approximately 860,000 as of July 1, 2015. No doubt South Dakotans would be stunned to see countless grammar criminals suddenly flooding into their state.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

Exporting grammatical criminals would probably make it the most populous state in the country.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

The state would probably get enough people to become its own country.

Rachel Elle
Guest
Rachel Elle

Or perhaps you’d have to sit in grammar jail for a while and ruminate on what errors you committed.

Rachel Elle
Guest
Rachel Elle

This would be my dream job.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

It’s great that Crowd Content cares enough about its writers to want to teach them. Many sites probably wouldn’t make that kind of effort.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

It’s an investment in their writers, should improve their product, and will likely reduce operating expenses because they’ll need fewer editors. It’s a win-win-win.

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

Yes, Crowd Content does so much to ensure that its writers have excellent resources. The company encourages us content writers to improve our skills so that we can always create a highly professional work product for the clients.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

That investment sets it apart from some other places.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

Yes it does. Some places seem to want to get something for nothing. When you give nothing, you’ll get nothing back. Strange that some don’t understand that.

Rachel Elle
Guest
Rachel Elle

It’s just beneficial for everyone – Crowd Content gets to put more out there for writers, and writers to get a chance to improve and boost Crowd Content’s reputation with clients. Win-win!

Elizabeth Chaney
Guest
Elizabeth Chaney

Although I have found my use of proper grammar to be lacking, these concepts will help by going back to the basics that are long forgotten.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

How great that today we can go back to the basics without having to sit in a classroom. How many people have the time to fit a class into their schedule?

Christine Birch
Guest
Christine Birch

Yay, grammar series! I find these subjects fascinating AND helpful.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

They are if you love words (and if you don’t love words, why are you writing?).

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

It takes someone special to find grammar fascinating. Maybe that’s why we’re writers.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

It certainly doesn’t hurt.

Linnea S.
Guest
Linnea S.

Me too. I have to thank my seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Treacy, for making grammar very interesting and kind of elegant.

auntieemily
Guest
auntieemily

I feel like I didn’t receive all of the schooling that I should have received in regard to grammar. As a writer, I really wish that I had learned more when I was a kid.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

Fortunately, you have the opportunity to learn more now. We all do.

Earl Dotson
Guest
Earl Dotson

It takes a gifted teacher who can make a subject interesting and somewhat elegant, especially if that subject is grammar.

Christine Birch
Guest
Christine Birch

Same. In my case, it was a Latin teacher. Declensions and conjugations, everything fitting together like an intricate word puzzle… I was smitten.

Rob Toccs
Guest
Rob Toccs

Would you have liked English more if it was presented in the same puzzle-like manner in school?

Christine Birch
Guest
Christine Birch

Who can say? I’m guessing that the neatness of a dead language would never be matched by one that is still living and evolving each day.

pastorjamesledbetter
Guest
pastorjamesledbetter

We never stop learning. A wise man once said ” The man who thinks he has learned it all turns the page and discovers another chapter.”

melissann
Guest
melissann

I think I know these things, without knowing what to call them. My sentence structures seem fine, but I can’t tell you the difference between a verb and an adjective.

Georgia Potts
Guest
Georgia Potts

If you’re a fellow grammar enthusiast, check out the song “Word Crimes” by Weird Al Yankovic. It’s so funny to people who fight bad grammar for a living.

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