Subject-verb Concord
Grammar Unit 2 20
Subject-verb Concord
Word forms co-occurring in a clause are sensitive to each other. Agreement between subject and predicate verb in person and number. The number of errors was surprising. The committee are unable to reach a decision. Either my sister or my father is coming.
Guiding Principles
Grammatical Concord A verb must agree with its subject in person and number. Singular subjects take singular verbs, and plural subjects take plural verbs. Inflected forms often agree in their values of number, person, or gender, as can be seen gender from the examples. I try. He tries. They try. I was. They were. I am. You are. He is.
Notional Concord (agreement in meaning) Usually grammatical agreement and notional agreement coincide. He laughs. We laugh. But in some sentences a subject takes a singular form but has a plural meaning. And situation can be reversed. Compare. Her family are all avid skiers. (notional) Everyone has gone to the movies. (grammatical)
Principle of Proximity (Agreement by Proximity) The noun that is adjacent to the verb can exert more influence than the noun that is the grammatical subject. No one except his own supporters agree with him. Either John or his brothers are bringing the dessert.
Formal number a cat, a teacher, friends…, etc. Notional number government, fifteen miles, forty-five dollars…, etc.
arthritis, diabetes, etc.
Arthritis is a disease causing pain and swelling in the joints of the body.
physics, linguistics, economics, politics, etc
Physics is an important subject in middle schools.
the United States, the United Nations, the Netherlands, etc.
The United States is a country of people with varied origins. The Himalayas have a magnificent variety of plant and animal life.
archives, arms, clothes, contents, fireworks, goods, minutes, morals, remains, stairs, suburbs, thanks, wages, etc.
The contents of this books are fascinating.
clippings, diggings, earnings, surroundings, sweepings, etc. The clippings of the hedge are usually burnt.
means, series, works, headquarters…etc A headquarters was set up to direct the operation. Their headquarters are in Paris. The only means to achieve success is to appeal to arms. All means have been tried out to increase agricultural production. A new species of mammal has been found. Altogether, about 450 species of flatfish are known.
Collective noun
collective nouns as plurals police, people, cattle, poultry, vermin collective nouns as non-counts equipment, furniture, merchandise, foliage, machinery collective nouns as both singulars and plurals audience, committee, class, family, public For example, A. That group of soldiers is a top-notch fighting unit. B. That group of soldiers have good performance.
Coordinate subject
and / both…and The fishing and the hunting there were good. Both Linda and her son have gone to Canada. Ham and eggs is a good breakfast. The hammer and sickle was flying from a tall flagpole. Good and bad taste are inculcated by example. What I say and think are no business of yours.
Every boy and every girl in this room is entitled to a copy. Many a man and woman in this community finds himself or herself in need.
or / nor / either…or/ not only…but also Principle of Proximity My sister or my brother is likely to be at home. Either my father or my brothers are coming. Neither the Kansas players nor the coach was overconfident. Not only the switches but also the old wiring has been changed.
subj. + as well as, rather than, etc. as well as, rather than, more than, no less than, in addition to, with, along with, together with, except, etc. His brother rather than his parents is to blame. My wife, more than anyone else in the family, is anxious to go there again. The manager with some workers was working during the holidays. The barn, in addition to the house, was burned.
Expressions of quantity
Definite quantity: three months, five kilos, six miles… Six months is too short a time, he warned. He thought that six-five dollars was not too much to ask. There were six dollars in each of the stockings.
Two thirds of the land has been reclaimed. Over sixty percent of the city was destroyed. Thirty-five percent of the doctors were women. Forty minus fifteen leaves twenty-five. Forty divided by eight is five. Seven and five makes/make twelve. Five times eight is / are forty. One in ten students has / have failed the exam. One out of twenty was / were badly damaged.
Indefinite quantity: all of…, some of…, none of…, half of…, most of…, lots of, plenty of, etc. Some of the money has been stolen. Some of the books were lost. All of the cargo was lost. All of the crew were saved. Half of the building was damaged. Half of the students are girls.
a portion of, a series of, a pile of, etc. A portion of the reports is missing. A series of accidents has been reported. a kind / sort / type of, etc. There is a kind of rose in the garden. That type of men is dangerous. These kind of men are dangerous. (informal) many a…, more than one… Many a man has done his duty. More than one game was lost.
Nominal clause
what, who, why, how, whether, etc. What caused the accident is a complete mystery. What caused the accident and who was responsible for it remain a mystery to us. What was real to him were the details of his life. What are often regarded as poisonous are sometimes safely edible.
Non-finite clause
To clime mountains requires courage. Playing tennis is a very good exercise. Reading Ibsen and solving a quadratic equation are entirely different assignments.
Relative clause
John is one of those people who go out. Selfishness is the one of her many faults which defeats itself. John is the only one of those people who goes out. He is one of those rare people who believes in ancient myths. (BrE)
Cleft sentence
It is I who am to blame. In the informal situation: It is me that is to blame. It is me that was injured in the accident.
Existential sentence
Notional subject There are three routes you can take. There is a note left on the desk. When the notional subject is a coordinate construction, principle of proximity works. There is more grace and less carelessness. There is a house and three trees in the picture.



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