Basic Rule of Subject Verb Agreement

As a copy editor, one of the most important rules to keep in mind when editing any piece of writing is subject-verb agreement. This rule ensures that the subject and verb in a sentence agree in number, meaning they both refer to either singular or plural entities.

In basic terms, this means that a singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject requires a plural verb. Sounds simple enough, right? However, even experienced writers can sometimes become confused when it comes to subject-verb agreement, particularly when dealing with more complex sentence structures.

To avoid any confusion, here are some basic rules to follow when it comes to subject-verb agreement:

1. Identify the subject: The subject of a sentence is the person, place, thing, or idea that the sentence is about. For example, in the sentence “The cat chases the mouse,” the subject is “the cat.”

2. Determine the number of the subject: The subject can be singular (one) or plural (more than one). In the example sentence above, the subject is singular because there is only one cat.

3. Choose the verb that matches the subject: In a sentence, the verb is the action or state of being that the subject is performing. In the example sentence above, the verb is “chases,” which is a singular verb that matches the singular subject.

4. Be careful with compound subjects: When a sentence has more than one subject joined by “and,” it can be easy to become confused about whether to use a singular or plural verb. The general rule is to use a plural verb for compound subjects, as in the sentence “The cat and the dog chase the mouse.”

5. Watch out for tricky subjects: Some subjects can be tricky when it comes to subject-verb agreement. For example, collective nouns (such as “team” or “family”) are singular but refer to a group of people or things. In this case, it is important to remember that the verb should also be singular. So, for example, you would say “The team is playing well” rather than “The team are playing well.”

By following these basic rules of subject-verb agreement, you can ensure that your writing is clear and easy to read, while also demonstrating your mastery of grammar and syntax. Whether you are writing for a blog or website, or simply communicating with others through written text, understanding and applying this important rule is the key to success.