Sunday, April 13, 2014

Grammar Nazi Count-Down Episode Four - Subject-Verb Agreement

Nardvark and his alter-ego, the Nerdvark, don't always agree.  Living on the edge, Nardvark likes to try new combinations in his sandwiches and pizzas.  Nerdvark is of the opinion that certain condiments do not mix.  Nardvark also has a problem with disagreements in his writing.  

Subject-verb agreement means that when you conjugate a verb (i.e. he runs, she runs, we run, they run...) you have to notice whether your subject is singular or plural.  

Here are some examples of subject-verb agreement errors that Nardvark has made recently:

Everyone think I have an absolutely spectacular horn.

This sentence made Nerdvark laugh, because not only is it untrue, it also shows that Nardvark doesn't realize that although the subject "everyone" has the word "one" in it, it refers to a lot of people and therefore is treated as plural.  The Nerdvark rewrote the sentence for his friend like this:

Everyone thinks I have an utterly ridiculous horn.

Sometimes, Nardvark begins a sentence with a compound subject, like this:

Nerdvark and his imaginary friend doesn't like peanut butter on hamburgers, even though it's delicious.

In this sentence, even though Nerdvark's imaginary friend is singular, there are two subjects mentioned, so the verb must be conjugated for a plural subject.  Nerdvark has repaired the sentence thus:

Nerdvark and his mysterious friend don't like peanut butter on hamburgers, because it is revolting.

Nardvark gets even more confused when the compound subject of his sentence contains or:

Nerdvark or Nardvark feed their pet toucan every day.

Seems like with the both of them in there, it ought to be a plural subject, right?  But with "or" between them, we are actually only referring to one of them, so it's a singular subject.  

Nerdvark or Nardvark thinks about feeding their pet toucan every day, but only Nerdvark actually bothers to do it.

Sometimes Nardvark's subjects have a modifier, which can lead to confusion with the verb:

Nerdvark, who has ugly furry feet, wear silly slippers shaped like fuzzy dolphins.

While it is true that Nerdvark has furry feet and fuzzy dolphin slippers, he is still the subject of the sentence, and his verb needs to be singular:

Nerdvark, who has luxuriously furry feet, wears adorable slippers shaped like fuzzy dolphins.


Nerdvark can't help laughing when he reads
Nardvark's subject-verb agreement errors!


If you think you, like Nardvark, may have a problem with your subject-verb agreement, you can find more guidelines on The Nerdvark's favourite website, the Purdue Online Writing Lab.  If you enjoy my blog and find it helpful, please support me by checking out my website: www.kiborrowman.net.  Thanks!