Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Avoiding Sentence Errors: Subject-Verb Agreement: "Be" Verbs

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    If a form of the be verb is used and there is a noun both before and after that verb, the verb must agree with the subject. This holds true even if the predicate noun (the noun coming after the verb) is different in number.

    The cause of his health problem was his bad eating habits.
    His bad eating habits were the cause of his health problem.

    (From Write for Business, page 324, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 74)

    Avoiding Sentence Errors: Subject-Verb Agreement: Relative Pronouns

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    When a relative pronoun (which, who, that) is used to introduce a dependent clause, the number of the verb must agree with the pronoun's antecedent.

    This is one of the reports that are required for this project. (The relative pronoun that takes the plural verb [are] because its antecedent [reports] is plural. To test this type of sentence, read the of phrase first: Of the reports that are…)

    (From Write for Business, page 324, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 74)

    Avoiding Sentence Errors: Subject-Verb Agreement: Nouns That Are Plural in Form

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Some nouns that are plural in form but singular in meaning require a singular verb: economics, news, mathematics, summons, mumps, and so on.

    Economics is a social science, not a pure science.

    Exceptions: assets, earnings, premises, proceeds, quarters (These plural-form nouns, though singular in meaning, use a plural verb.)

    Last year's earnings were up from 2001!
    Our greatest assets are our employees.

    (From Write for Business, page 324, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 74)

    Avoiding Sentence Errors: Subject-Verb Agreement: Collective Nouns

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Collective nouns (class, faculty, family, committee, navy, team, species, band, crowd, pair, squad) can be singular or plural in meaning. They require a singular verb when they refer to a group as a unit; they require a plural verb when they refer to the group members as individuals.

    The team is [not are] required to submit an expense report for the road trip. (Team refers to a group as a unit; it requires the singular verb is.)
    The faculty are [not is] highly experienced. (In this example, faculty refers to the individuals within the group. If the word individuals were substituted for faculty, it would become clear that the plural verb are is needed.)

    (From Write for Business, page 324, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 74)

    Avoiding Sentence Errors: Subject-Verb Agreement: Indefinite Pronouns with Singular or Plural Verbs

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    The indefinite pronouns all, any, most, none, and some may be either singular or plural. These pronouns are singular if the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase that follows is singular; they are plural if the noun is plural.

    Most of the manuals were missing. (Manuals, the noun in the prepositional phrase, is plural; therefore, the pronoun most is considered plural, and the plural verb were is used to agree with it.)
    Much of the meeting was over by the time we arrived. (Because meeting is singular, much is also singular, requiring the singular verb was.)
    All are expected to attend.

    (From Write for Business, page 324, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 74)