Subject-Verb
Agreement
Introduction

Some of the questions in the Writing Test will check your
knowledge of  subject-verb agreement, or using the verb that
matches the subject.
Briefly, every complete sentence must have a subject and a
verb. The subject is the person or thing the sentence tells
about, and the verb is the action (what the subject does) or
state of being (what the subject feels, is, or has).
All subjects can be placed into categories labeled 'persons'. If
a subject can be replaced by the pronoun
we, it is in the
first-person plural; if a subject can be replaced by
she, he, or
it, it is in the third-person singular. The note to the left lists all
the person-categories and their corresponding pronouns.
It is essential that the verb form agrees with the subject. For
most present-tense verbs, this means adding an s to the end
of the third-person singular verb, as in
I laugh, you laugh, she,
he or it laughs, we laugh, you laugh, and they laugh.
The verbs
to be and to have are irregular. Their conjugations -
the way the verbs change in each person - can be found in the
right-hand border of this page.
Please take a look at the picture to the right to practice
subject-verb agreement.

The woman has a ring.

In this sentence
, woman is the subject, and has is the verb;
woman
is a third-person singular subject, so it requires a
third-person singular verb. Next, consider this sentenc
e:

The man and the woman have smiles on their faces.

The subject of this sentence is
the man and the woman. This is
a third-person plural subject, so it requires the third-person
verb
have in order for the subject and the verb to agree.
It is somewhat easy to decide what the subjects are and what
person-category they belong to in sentences like the two
above. The subjects are both at the beginning of the sentence,
and the verbs come directly after the subjects. Let's look at a
different sentence.

In the picture are a woman and a man.

Is there subject-verb agreement in this sentence?
There is only one verb in the sentence,
are, but what is the
subject? Is it
picture? There is a grammar rule that can help
you answer this question: the subject of a sentence is almost
never part of a prepositional phrase. An exception to this rule
is when the preposition is part of a title, as in this sentence:
After Midnight is the title of a popular song.
The word
picture is part of the prepositional phrase in the
picture
, so picture can't be the subject. The subject of the
sentence is
the woman and the man, which is third-person  
plural.
Are is the correct form of the verb for this sentence.
Here's a similar sentence; which form of the verb
to be would
you use?

In the picture ____  a woman with a man.

What's the subject of the sentence? If you say
woman, you're
right, because
man is part of the prepositional phrase with a man.
The sentence should read:

In the sentence is a woman with a man.

The subject is third-person singular, so the verb must be
third-person singular as well.
For more on
subject-verb
agreement visit
Capital City College's
Guide to Writing and
Grammar.
What Person?
When deciding what
'person' a subject is
in, ask yourself what
pronoun could be
used in place of the
noun or nouns. In the
sentence "The
woman has a ring"
the noun
woman can
be replaced by the
pronoun s
he. Thus,
the subject is
third-person singular.
Singular
1st person - I
2nd person - you
3rd person - he, it or
she
Plural
1st person - we
2nd -person - you
3rd person - they
Can you find the
subject of a sentence?
Try this quiz.
You can take the quiz
as often as you like; it
will always be a little
different.
The man loves
the woman.
Prepositional Phrase
A prepositional
phrase is a group of
words that begins
with a preposition
and ends with a noun
or adjective.
To be:
I am
you are
he, it, she is
we are
you are
they are
Prepositions
Prepositions are
words that show
place, direction, time
or relationship.

Some prepositions:
place - in, on, under
direction - to, from
time - by, since
relationship - about
The man and
the woman love
each other.
Remember!
The subject of a
sentence is almost
never part of a
prepositional phrase.
Free Praxis Prep is a service of Multicultural Education Programs at the University of Southern Maine
About Us   Using this Material   Contact Us   Linking