Archive for the ‘Subject/Verb Agreement’ Category

Verb Agreement: ARE and ENJOYS won’t work together.

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Regular reader Joe C. sent along this course synopsis from a lifelong learning catalog. "I found it ironic that the man who would be teaching "Poetry: Reading, Creating and Critiquing" would make such a classic grammatical error in his synopsis."

I agree. In the first part of the sentence, WHO refers back to PERSONS (plural), so the first part works–PERSONS WHO ARE ACTIVELY WRITING POETRY, but in the second part, WHO still refers to PERSONS (plural), so the verb ENJOYS (singular with an S) does not work. The sentence should read this way:

This course is intended for persons who are actively writing poetry or who simply enjoy reading poetry for its own sake.

Poetry reading Glitch


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Agreement Errors–Again!

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

AGREEMENT 2For those of you who struggle to use subject/verb agreement correctly in your writing, here are two Birmingham News examples of how it should NOT be done:

#1: From an article about spring break issues with beaches in Alabama:

The comments from the two mayors comes amid social buzz about photos showing garbage strewn on Gulf Shores' beaches and gatherings of college students moving about.

Whoops! The subject of this sentence is COMMENTS (plural), but the writer chose the verb COMES (singular). The sentence should read this way:

       The comments from the two mayors come amid social buzz about….

#2: From yet another Birmingham News article on politics:

The success of the Democrats' plans hinge in part on rallying their grass roots to the cause….

Whoops again! The subject of this sentence is SUCCESS (singular), but the writer has chosen the verb HINGE (plural). The sentence should read this way:

The success of the Democrats' plans hinges in part on rallying their grass roots to the cause….

A First: Grammar Glitch spotted in The New Yorker!

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

polar bear with melting iceI read articles in The New Yorker whenever I have a little down time. They are always informative, interesting, and well written. The magazine's editorial staff is meticulous.

I'm often several months behind because the magazine comes every week, so last week I was reading an article in the August 24, 2015, issue about the efforts of Christiana Figueres to persuade us all to take climate change seriously.

On page 30, I was surprised to come across this sentence with a Subject/Verb Agreement Glitch:

     "The practical obstacles to realizing any of these scenarios has prompted some experts to observe that, for all intents and purposes, the two-degree limit has already been breached."

Whoops! The subject of the sentence is OBSTACLES (plural), so the verb should be HAVE PROMPTED not HAS PROMPTED (singular).

This is the first time I have ever spotted a Grammar Glitch in The New Yorker. I suspect it will be a long time before I see another one!

NOTE: The Subject/Verb Agreement Glitch is rampant in "lesser" publications–especially headlines in local newspapers. To see three examples, please check my Facebook post for December 23 on the Grammar Glitch Central page.


Subject/Verb Agreement Glitches Shared by a Regular Reader

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

It is not just The Birimingham News that is creating Glitches with its headlines. Regular reader Joe C. sent three examples from Florida recently. Here is the first one: 

Joe C headline April 2015  Whoops! DRONE KILLINGS is plural, so the verb used with it should be UP (with no S), not UPS (which is singular). DRONE KILLINGS UP PRESSURE FOR NEW HOSTAGE STRATEGY.







THREATS MAKES headline Joe C April 2015  Whoops again! THREATS is plural, so the verb with it should be MAKES (without the S). RISING THREATS MAKE KURDISH OIL LESS ATTRACTIVE.






Pic for Grammar Glitch from Joe C Whoops once more!


Apparently, those who create those pesky crawls at the bottom of the screen are not immune to this Grammar Glitch either. STRIKES (plural) is the subject here, so the verb should be KILL, not KILLS, which is singular. U.S. DRONE STRIKES ACCIDENTALLY KILL AMERICAN, ITALIAN AL-QAEDA HOSTAGES.

PLEASE NOTE: Aside from the grammar points relating to these news items, this is a sad subject, and we offer condolences to the families involved.



Apparently the subject/verb agreement Glitch is reaching epidemic proportions. Here is an advertisement headline with the reverse problem. It appeared on my screen the other day as I tried to play Words with Friends:


In this one, the subject is RULE, which is singular. Therefore, the verb should be LEAVES, not LEAVE, which is plural. It should read: NEW RULE LEAVES DRIVERS SURPRISED. NOTE: I didn't bother to click and find out what the new rule is.


Newspapers Still Need Copy Editors!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Newspaper reporters and columnists can no longer rely on copy editors to polish their usage and grammar. More than one of them has actually thanked Grammar Glitch Central for pointing out an error or two. There should be someone at the newspaper office whose job it is to know good writing standards and apply them while proofreading. These days that is not happening. Reporters write their own copy, do their own proofreading, and click SEND.

Recently, a new problem is cropping up. Even if the reporters get it right, whoever creates the photo captions, headlines, and sidebars is making careless errors that detract from the quality of the reporting. That person ought to have a good command of standard writing skills and a desire to proofread for correctness. In ONE issue of The Birmingham News this past week, the following errors appeared in headlines, captions, and sidebars:

Whoops #1: In an article about the gyrocopter that landed in DC, the Tribune News Service reporter correctly stated that the pilot must stay away from the CAPITOL (the building), but the photographic caption says that "Doug Hughes landed on the grass in front of the United States CAPITAL on Wednesday." CAPITAL refers to the entire city. CAPITOL is the building in front of which Hughes landed.

Whoops #2: Columnist Edward Bowser correctly named the Birmingham Children's THEATRE when he referred to it numerous times in his article about their wonderful program of taking performances to schools. However, the headline for his column is this: "Birmingham Children's THEATER brings magic of stage to schools." Perhaps the incorrect spelling of a proper name is not a big deal, but I'm sure that group consciously chose to use the THEATRE spelling, and it would not have taken the headline creator more than a minute to check the website for the proper spelling–especially since Bowser had handed that person the correct spelling.

Whoops #3: In Mike Oliver's creepy but informative article about Alabama's 58 spider varieties, Mike correctly spelled RECLUSE when he listed the brown recluse as one of the three highly venomous spiders in the state. However, the caption next to the photo of this spider refers to it as the Brown RECLUDE Spider.

Whoops #4: In a sidebar that summarizes the details of an article about Alabama's pro-life legislature and the abortion issue, the first bullet contains this grammatically incorrect sentence: "Women must receive counseling designed to discourage her from having an abortion." WOMEN is plural. Therefore, the correct pronoun would be THEY. The sentence should be worded one of two ways: 1) WOMEN must receive counseling to discourage THEM from having ABORTIONS. or 2) A WOMAN must receive counseling to discourage HER from having an abortion.

Whoops #5: Those who create photo captions should understand where commas should go and, more importantly, where they should not go. One comma "rule" is that, if a title comes before a person's name, it is not necessary to set that name off (like an appositive) with commas. A second "rule" is that a subject should not be separated from a verb by a comma. In this sentence from a caption about a tour of a school campus, the comma between WILLIAMS and LEADS is incorrect: "Here, former Hoover schools Superintendent Connie Williams, leads faculty and parents from Shades Mountain Christian Schoool on a tour…."

It should not be unreasonable to expect a better level of correct usage than this. These are not acceptable errors.

A COLLECTION ARE DISPLAYED? Subject/verb agreement issues once again.

Friday, January 16th, 2015

spoon collection photo glitchRegular Grammar Glitch reader Joe C. shared this "fast fact" about the state of New Jersey and pointed out that the Glitch in this description highlights "the classic disagreement between subject and verb." He commented that many people have trouble with "tricky collective nouns" like COLLECTION, LAUNDRY, MONEY, and other "lump sum" items that cannot be counted individually.

In the sentence at left, COLLECTION is the subject, not SPOONS. No matter how many spoons are in the collection, it is only one collection that IS DISPLAYED. I would add that good professional writing style would use the words MORE THAN rather than OVER in this instance. The sentence should read this way:

A collection of more than 5,400 spoons is displayed at the Lambert Castle Spoon Museum in Paterson, New Jersey.

To see another example of poor subject/verb agreement, scroll back two posts to January 5 (titled "INFORMATION is like LAUNDRY, MONEY or SAND.")


Monday, January 5th, 2015

Cal Thomas head shot Even experienced writers like long-time columnist Cal Thomas mess up subject/verb agreement sometimes. Here is a sentence from his excellent Christmas column, "What if the greatest story ever told is true?" A quick proofread by him or his editor would probably have caught this.

"The information provided by witnesses to these events are either true, or not."

Whoops! INFORMATION is a collective noun like LAUNDRY, MONEY, SALT, or SAND. These things are lump sums. We don't count them individually when we write or speak about them. In other words, people do not say that they have several LAUNDRIES to do today or that they have only one MONEY in the bank. They don't try to describe how many SALTS are in the shaker or how many SANDS are on the beach.

Therefore, these nouns are treated as singular and take a singular verb. Cal Thomas's sentence should read this way: 

The information provided by witnesses to these events is either true, or not.

On the other hand, nouns that are not collective refer to things that can be counted, and people do say that they have several SHIRTS to wash or several DOLLAR BILLS on the table. They do describe the number of BEACHES in a state or the number of SALT SHAKERS in the cupboard.

The way to avoid this Glitch is to consider whether or not the noun you want to use refers to something that can be counted or not. Here are some sentences that illustrate this point:

1. The LAUNDRY is piling up this week.  

            The TOWELS are ready to be washed.

2. My MONEY is tied up in real estate.  

           There are three dollar BILLS on the counter.

3. The SAND on Gulf Coast beaches is bright white.  

          GRAINS of sand are in my shoes.

4. Is there enough SALT in the soup?

         Three different KINDS of salt are on the shelf.

Responsibility ARE different? Whoops!

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Kim Komando's April 11, 2014, Special to USA Today offers good advice on 4 places not to swipe your debit card. However, Komando could benefit from some good advice about two common Grammar Glitches. One is subject/verb agreement, as seen in this sentence:

It's not widely appreciated that consumer responsibility for debit-card charges are different than they are for credit cards.

Whoops! The subject in the second clause of this sentence is RESPONSIBILITY (singular). Therefore, the verb should be IS not ARE. The verb is not affected by the prepositional phrase FOR DEBIT-CARD CHARGES. Often, as is the case here, it is necessary to make other adjustments when you correct a verb agreement problem. THEY ARE must now be changed to IT IS. The sentence should read this way:

It's not widely appreciated that consumer responsibility for debit-card charges is different than it is for credit cards.

If you would like to see the Komando's other Grammar Glitch and its solution, please check out today's entry on Facebook's Grammar Glitch Central page.

Addled Examples of Poor Agreement

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Today's Grammar Glitches appear in recent issues of The Birmingham News. Both involve poor choices of subject and verb agreement with regard to what is singular and what is plural. Here is the first example:


Thus far, the state's efforts to boost its trained workforce has focused primarily on dual enrollment between public high schools and the the community college system.

Whoops! #1: The subject of this sentence is EFFORTS (plural with an S). TO BOOST ITS TRAINED WORKFORCE is a prepositional phrase that should not affect the relationship between the subject EFFORTS and the verb, which should be HAVE (plural) FOCUSED. The sentence should read this way:


Thus far, the state's efforts to boost its trained workforce have focused primarily on dual enrollment between public high schools and the the community college system.

Here is the second example:


Attention and honor was pointed in the right direction.

Whoops #2: This sentence has a compound subject. One subject connected to another subject by AND creates a plural subject. Therefore, the verb should be WERE instead of WAS. Here is the correct sentence:


Attention and honor were pointed in the right direction.


My thanks to for their February 17 publication of an interview that highlights the significance of Grammar Glitch Central as a useful tool for business writers. If you'd like to know more about the motivation behind Grammar Glitch Central and see some of my favorite Glitch examples, please visit


There is? There are? A definite answer exists.

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

When beginning a sentence with THERE and following it with a "to be" verb, you must make a choice based on agreement with the subject, which comes AFTER the verb. Do you want IS or ARE? WAS or WERE? Consider this sentence, which certainly fits the season as well as this frequently abused grammar point:

Even though the flu is typically a winter-time illness, there's no definitive answers as to why that's always the case. flu

ANSWERS (plural) is the subject of this sentence. THERE is just a "place holder" at the beginning. Therefore, the verb should be ARE (plural) to match the plural subject ANSWERS. The sentence should read this way:

Even though the flu is typically a winter-time illness, there are no definitive answers as to why that's always the case.

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