Category: Subject and Verb Agreement

What Have We Learned This Year?

Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2014, at 7:40 pm

To close out 2014, we have put together a comprehensive pop quiz based on the year’s grammar tips. The quiz comprises twenty-five sentences that may need fixing. Think you can fix them? Our answers follow the quiz. Each answer includes, for your convenience, the title and date of the article that raised the topic. …

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Media Watch

Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014, at 8:41 pm

Here is another batch of bloopers from dailies and periodicals. • “Canada is sending between 50 to 100 military advisers.” Can anyone explain the presence of “between” in that sentence? • “He showed a much improved grasp of the English language than a year ago.” Someone who writes “much improved than a year ago” should …

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Verbal Illusions

Posted on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, at 2:14 pm

Today we’ll look at three perplexing sentences that are the verbal equivalent of optical illusions. • Every man and woman has arrived. Why has? The phrase man and woman denotes a plural subject. Consider the following grammatically sound sentence: The happy man and woman have arrived. Every and happy both function as adjectives that modify man and woman in these almost identical sentences. But every is so powerfully singular that …

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Collective Nouns and Consistency

Posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at 4:43 pm

In American English, most collective nouns take singular verbs—except when a sentence emphasizes the individuals in the group, not the group as a whole. In a sentence like The faculty is organized into eight departments, the collective noun faculty is singular. But consider The university’s faculty are renowned scholars in their own right. In that …

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These Nouns Present Singular Problems

Posted on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at 9:02 pm

Let’s talk about nouns with split personalities. A collective noun (e.g., group, team, jury, flock, herd) is a paradox: singular in form (the team, a jury, one flock) but plural in meaning—who ever heard of a one-person group or a one-goat herd? Whenever we use a collective noun as a subject, we must decide whether …

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