Lesson 2: Subject-Verb Agreement

Activities

Activity 1: Commonly Confused Words, Set I

Materials: The Only Grammar & Style Workbook You'll Ever Need by Susan Thurman, The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need by Susan Thurman
Starting today, most lessons will include a review of some words that are often confused due to similar sound, spelling, or both. In each case, you'll review four to five groups of words and read additional tips or examples in the lesson. Then you'll decide which tips, examples, or definitions are most helpful for you and record them on the "Commonly Confused Words" activity pages. Copying notes is a great way to reinforce information, and the pages will serve as a handy resource for you to review all of the commonly confused words you'll review in this unit.

Today you'll do the following:
  1. Read about the first five groups of words on pp. 6-7 of the book (a/an, a lot/alot/allot, accept/except, adapt/adopt, advice/advise).
  2. Read the additional tips and information in the lesson.
  3. Record notes, examples, etc. in Set I of the first "Commonly Confused Words" activity page.
  4. Check your understanding by completing p. 13 in the workbook. Use a pencil to circle the correct answer and then use the Answer Key at the bottom of the page to check your work.
  5. If you missed any workbook questions, go back and review the rules for that group of words.
Here are some additional tips for some of the word groups:

a/an: Remember to say the noun aloud. Nouns that start with a consonant SOUND use "a" while those that start with a vowel SOUND use "an." Can you have "an historic event"? No, you can't.
a lot/alot/allot: If you have a good spell checker, it will immediately separate "alot" into "a lot." Yet you still see "alot" on social media, well, a lot. Blogger and comic writer Allie Brosh came up with a creature called the "alot" to help her deal with people incorrectly using "a lot." You may find her blog post entertaining. (Note that adding an extra "l" to "alot" creates a valid word that your spell checker won't catch. Remember that "allot" means "to divide or distribute by share or portion.")
Web Link
accept/except and adapt/adopt: The confusion with these words occurs because they sound similar (and some people may pronounce them exactly the same). Seeing the words written may help you decide which one to use.

advice/advise: Be sure you know the difference in these words' pronunciations. "Advise" is pronounced as if it were spelled "advize."
Starting today, most lessons will include a review of some words that are often confused due to similar sound, spelling, or both. Today, students will read about the first five groups of words. Encourage students to add their own notes or examples and copy some of the helpful tips from the book and lesson onto the "Commonly Confused Words" activity pages. Recording notes helps reinforce the information and will make it easier for students to review.

They will also complete a brief exercise in their grammar workbook. The answers are available at the bottom of the page. If they miss any questions, encourage them to review the applicable word group(s).

Activity 2: Subject-Verb Agreement

Materials: The Only Grammar & Style Workbook You'll Ever Need by Susan Thurman, The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need by Susan Thurman
You probably don't have trouble with sentences like "I were fast." or "They has a problem." Yet subjects and verbs not agreeing with each other is a common problem. The biggest problems occur in the following cases:
  • when the subject and verb are separated (usually by one or more prepositional phrases or the sentence order is different than normal) The man in the black boots is my uncle. (the subject and verb are separated by the prepositional phrase "in the black boots"
  • the subject is an indefinite pronoun (like everyone, anything, somebody)
  • there is a compound subject (two subjects joined by a coordinating conjunction) My neighbor and her mother are from Sweden.
Here are some details about each of these cases.

Pesky Prepositional Phrases and Confounding Clauses

If one or more prepositional phrases occur between a subject and verb, to make sure that the subject and verb agree, use a pencil to cross out the phrase(s) or cover them with a finger. Here's an example:

The subject of the investigations is/are my neighbors.

Since "investigations" is right beside the verb, it sounds like "are" is correct. Cross out the prepositional phrase "of the investigations," and you'll see that the subject is "subject," whose verb should be "is." Remember that the subject of a verb is never located in a prepositional phrase.
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Similarly, sometimes adjective clauses (beginning with who, that, or which) come between the subject and verb. As with prepositional phrases, using a pencil to cross them out or a finger to cover them up can help you isolate the subject and verb to confirm they agree:

A babysitter who is patient with those screaming toddlers deserves/deserve respect.

Again, since "toddlers" is beside the verb, it may sound like "deserve" is correct. If you cover up "who is patient with those screaming toddlers," the correct subject and verb — "babysitter deserves" — is clear.

Is This Pronoun Singular or Plural? It's Indefinite.

Indefinite pronouns are usually singular, even if they seem to refer to more than one person or thing (like "everyone" or "much"). Some indefinite pronouns are always plural, and others depend on the situation. Here's a summary:
  • The following indefinite pronouns are always singular: all that begin in "some," "no," or "any" and end in "-thing," "-body," or "-one" (such as anything, somebody, or everyone), each, either, neither, other, another, much.
  • The indefinite pronouns both, few, many, and several are always plural.
  • These pronouns can be either singular or plural -- all, any, most, none, and some. Look at the prepositional phrase that follows the word to determine whether the word the pronoun refers to is singular or plural. For example, in "most of the cereal" "most" refers to "cereal," which is singular, but in "most of the students," "most" refers to "students," which is plural. So you'd say, "Most of the cereal is gone," but "Most of the students are here."

A Compounding Problem

A compound subject is two (or more) subjects joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, neither, nor). Subjects joined together by "and" always take a plural verb. For subjects joined together by or, neither, or nor, choose the subject closest to the verb to match to the verb. For example, "Neither Bob nor I have the answer," but "Neither Bob nor Joe has the answer."

To review these situations as well as a few other special cases, read pp. 46-52 in The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need. Be sure to write down in your journal any rules you weren't aware of.
Web Link
The following activity has two options to practice understanding subject-verb agreement. Ask which of the following options to complete.
Students learn about common problems with subject-verb agreement. A link is provided for students who would like to read additional explanations about subject-verb agreement and/or practice their understanding more. There are two options for this activity. Option 1 provides students an opportunity to confirm that they understand subject-verb agreement. Students who may not yet have a firm grip on this topic should complete Option 1. Option 2 is more advanced. Tell students which option to complete. If there is time, you may want to assign students both options.

Option 1

Complete #1-5 on pp. 152-155 of The Only Grammar & Style Workbook You'll Ever Need. Check your answers using the Answer Key found at the bottom of each page. If you miss any questions, review the page numbers mentioned in the directions for that page.
Students will complete exercises in the workbook and check their own work using the book's answer keys. If they missed any questions, encourage them to re-read that section of the book.

Option 2

Create a short quiz of at least 5 sentences that would test someone's knowledge of subject-verb agreement. Use the following online quiz creator (or a similar online tool) to create your quiz. Ask a friend or sibling to take the quiz and see how he or she does. Ask if the explanations were helpful for any questions your test-taker may have missed.

Here's a sample. Which of the following sentences is correct?
  1. Everyone who believes in rainbows and unicorns are welcome to attend the party.
  2. Everyone who believes in rainbows and unicorns is welcome to attend the party.
Explanation: #2 is correct because the subject "everyone" is an indefinite pronoun that is always singular.
Web Link
For this option, students use an online quiz creator to make a subject-verb agreement quiz at least 5 sentences long. This requires them to understand the subject-verb agreement rules and be able to explain them to others. Students should have you, a friend, or a sibling take the quiz. The explanations should clarify the correct answers.