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    Sentence Correction
  I: Introduction
  II: Sentence Correction Tips
  III: Glossary
  IV: Three-Step Method
V: Seven Error Types  
1. Subject-Verb Agreement
a. Introduction
b. Subject/Verb Separation
c. Collective Nouns
d. Plural / Singular
e. Neither / Either
f. Or / Nor
g. Subject / Verb / Object
h. Quantity Words
i. Sample Questions
2. Modifiers
3. Parallelism
4. Pronoun Agreement
5. Verb Time Sequences
6. Comparisons
7. Idioms
  VI: Sample Questions

 

   

1. Subject-Verb Agreement: Subject / Verb Separation
 

 

Subject-Verb Agreement

A. Introduction
B. Subject / Verb Separation
C. Collective Nouns
D. Plural / Singular
E. Neither / Either
F. Or / Nor
G. Subject / Verb / Object
H. Quantity Words
I. Sample Questions

A subject and verb may be separated by an accompanying phrase without changing the agreement.

The child, together with his grandmother and his parents, is going to the beach.

This sentence is grammatically correct. When a phrase sandwiched by commas comes between a subject and a verb, the subject and verb must still agree, even if the sandwiched phrase contains other nouns. The accompanying phrase "his grandmother and his parents" only provides extra information and does not alter in any way the grammatical relationship between the subject (the child) and the verb (is going).

GMAT Sentence Correction: If graphic doesn't load, press shift-refresh in your webbrowser to reload the page.

Pay special attention to who or what is doing the action indicated by the verb, and make sure it agrees with the verb. Ignore everything else.

Here's any easy way to handle this kind of "sandwich" agreement question. Take a look at the following sentence and decide whether it is correct or incorrect:

Frank, accompanied by his students, were at the studio.

There are three nouns in this sentence, and two verbs. To clarify which of the three nouns is the subject of the sentence, and with which of the two verbs the subject should agree, cross out everything inside the commas, like so:

GMAT Sentence Correction: If graphic doesn't load, press shift-refresh in your webbrowser to reload the page.

Two nouns remain: the subject is the noun in front of the crossed-out sandwich ("Frank"). The verb we're looking for, the "main-clause" verb, is the only remaining verb in the sentence ("were").

To simplify the task of comparing the newly-identified subject and its governing verb, we'll next erase the crossed-out sandwich. We're left with the following:

GMAT Sentence Correction: If graphic doesn't load, press shift-refresh in your webbrowser to reload the page.

The subject of the sentence is now right next to its governing verb. But does this subject-verb combination – "Frank were" – make sense? No. Frank is only one person – signifying singularity, not plurality - and so our governing verb should also be singular.

GMAT Sentence Correction: If graphic doesn't load, press shift-refresh in your webbrowser to reload the page.

The plural verb "were" has been changed to the singular verb "was." This final version pairs a singular noun with a singular verb, which corrects the original agreement error (a singular noun with a plural verb).

It would be a good idea to practice this technique on your own before test day, because you often won't have the time or space to work out each step at length. Once you have it down, this "cross-out" method is by far the quickest and easiest way to identify agreement errors. Just by crossing out the section inside the commas in this example, we were able to isolate, and then correct, the subject-verb relationship: since Frank, a singular proper noun, is the subject of the sentence, not his students, a singular, not plural, noun is required: Frank was at the studio.

Incorrect: Frank, accompanied by his students, were at the studio.

Correct: Frank, accompanied by his students, was at the studio.

 

Check for agreement in every question you see, and be aware of the different ways the error can pop up. So how should you handle – or even identify – a subject-verb agreement error without obvious isolating commas?

Here's are two types of filler phrases you will often see:

A. "Of" Phrases

Often, a sentence will begin with a noun, immediately followed by a group of words beginning with "of" that includes another noun. When two or more nouns precede a verb, it can sometimes be hard to tell which noun the verb should agree with. But that's where the concept of additive phrases can help us. In most cases, "of" phrases are added just to complicate the sentence, and can be crossed out, leaving us with a simple noun-verb agreement question.

Look at this sentence:

The goal of the architects are to create the most stunning and functional building in the city.

Does the verb agree with the subject? It's difficult to say at first glance, because we don't know yet what the subject is. TWO nouns precede the verb: which is the subject?

If the plural noun "architects" is the subject, then the plural verb "are" is in fact correct. But if the singular noun "goal" is the subject, then the plural noun "are" is incorrect.

To find the subject, cross out all the words between the first noun and the verb: this is the "of" phrase. As with the sandwich questions, the best way to clarify agreement issues is to actually cross out the "filler" (the additive phrase):

Once the filler phrase is crossed out, we can see that the plural verb "are" is not correct, because "goal," a singular noun, is the subject of the sentence. The correct verb is the singular "is":

Thus, even though the plural noun "architects" is closer to the verb than the singular noun "goal", it holds no weight in the sentence (in terms of agreement) simply because of its placement within the filler phrase. The singular noun "goal" is the subject of the sentence, and a singular noun requires a singular verb: "is".

Incorrect: The goal of the architects are to create the most stunning and functional building in the city.

Correct: The goal of the architects is to create the most stunning and functional building in the city.

 

B. "For" Phrases

Just like "of" phrases, "for" phrases add extra information to a sentence, which means that their contents cannot affect noun-verb agreement in the main part of the sentence.
Look at these two sentences. Which is correct?

The book I bought for my students tells the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

The book I bought for my students tell the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

The portion of the sentence we're concerned with contains two verbs in addition to there being three possible subjects: two nouns, and one pronoun.

How do you know which noun is the subject, and which verb is the important verb? First, cross out the "for" phrase:

The book I bought for my students tells the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

The book I bought for my students tell the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

That eliminates one noun, and leaves us with a noun and a pronoun vying for subject, and two verbs. Next, eliminate any cohered noun(or pronoun)-verb groups:

The book I bought tells the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

The book I bought tell the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

You can also cross this out with the "for" phrase, if it's easier for you. Just remember, when tackling questions containing additive phrases, that the subject and its verb will never be right next to one another: the function of the additive phrase is to separate them in order to confuse you. So if you've already eliminated the "for" or "to" phrase and still have other nouns and verbs remaining, eliminate any noun-verb or pronoun-verb groups that are right next to one another. The remaining noun and verb are your targets.

In this case, the subject, the singular noun "book," requires a singular verb. The first sentence, using the singular verb "tells," rather than the plural verb "tell," is correct.

Correct: The book I bought for my students tells the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

Incorrect: The book I bought for my students tell the story of a Russian immigrant's experience in the United States.

By using the same method as we used for the "sandwich" questions, we were able to isolate, analyze, and eventually correct the subject-verb relationship. Once you identify a phrase as a "filler" phrase, you've made the question as simple as a "sandwich". All that's left to do is cross out, analyze, and correct if necessary.

 
 
 


A. Introduction


C. Collective Nouns