Subject-Verb Agreement

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Make verb agree with its subject, not with a word that comes between.

Wrong:
The overplucked brows on that face needs serious eyebrow penciling.

Right:
The overplucked brows on that face need serious eyebrow penciling.

The word “and” makes the subjects plural

Wrong:
His broad soft belly and glassy grey eye scares me to my bones.

Right:
His broad soft belly and glassy grey eye scare me to my bones.

If you join subjects with “or” or “nor” make the verb agree with the part of the subject nearer to the verb.

Wrong:
If a cigarette or a doobie are what you need, call me after midnight and I’ll be right over.
Right:
If a cigarette or a doobie is what you need, call me after midnight and I’ll be right over.

Wrong:
Neither Belasco nor his five girlfriends was capable of listening to advice; they were too drunk with passion.

Right:
Neither Belasco nor his five girlfriends were capable of listening to advice; they were too drunk with passion.

Indefinite pronouns are singular

Examples of indefinite pronouns:

Anybody, anyone, anything, each , either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, somebody, someone, something.

Wrong:

Everyone on the battlefield during a missile barrage know that death is near.

Right:
Everyone on the battlefield during a missile barrage knows that death is near.

Most collective nouns are singular

Committee, jury, audience, family, troop are examples of collective nouns. Unless the meaning is obviously plural, treat them as singular.

Wrong:
The audience detested Good Charlotte’s top ten hit “The Anthem,” so they pelted the band with chewing gum and used Tampons.

Right:
The audience detested Good Charlotte’s top ten hit “The Anthem,” so it pelted the band with chewing gum and used Tampons.

Verb must agree with the subject even when subject follows verb

Wrong:
There was a 3-foot tall lunatic dressed as Puff Daddy and a 10-foot laughing clown who made the children cry.

Right:
There were a 3-foot tall lunatic dressed as Puff Daddy and a 10-foot laughing clown who made the children cry.

Who, which, and that, need verbs that agree with their antecedents.

Wrong:
My ability to lie is one of the things that make me a better guy than you.

Right:
My ability to lie is one of the things that makes me a better guy than you.

Many words look plural—measles, mumps, athletics, mathematics—but are singular.

Wrong:
Mathematics are my favorite subject because Professor Lobachevsky is cuter than Sponge Bob Squarepants.

Right:
Mathematics is my favorite subject because Professor Lobachevsky is cuter than Sponge Bob Squarepants.

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Exercises.

1. The friendship of the lame little balloonman and the bubblelicious teacher’s pet have, over the past decade, meant a great deal to me.

2. Her breasts swings lightly as she bend; she is a woman in the prime of life.

3. Young, hot, and divorced, Ashley and her sisters dates only tawdry and tacky fellows.

4. Waiting in the dugout, chewing tobacco, was a Bolshevik Jew and a blood-thirsty blob of mozzarella sticks.

5. Neither the naked truth nor the huge mothers was able to force him to confess.

6. Bink and Pepper make out until their lips turn to mush.

7. Scarlett Johansson and Pete Yorn is singing a duet tonight at the Pimple Pop Café.

8. If a pair of Levi’s skinny or two pairs of Calvin Klein copper wash is needed, then spend what you must.

9. Arnold and I believes that shopping for a Hugo Boss suit should be as uncomplicated as buying a dirty water hotdog.

10. Steve Phillips, former general manager of the New York Mets and fired ESPN analyst, and his ex doink buddy, shlubby seductress Brooke Hundley, is not in love.

shlubby seductress

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