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Test PrepACTEnglishSubject/Verb Agreement

ACT English Skill Review: Subject/Verb Agreement

The test writers love to write questions which test your knowledge of subject/verb agreement. The rule is simple: a subject must agree with the verb!

Take the sentence: The cow jumps over the moon. You must write the cow jumps instead of the cow jump because a singular subject (the cow) takes a singular verb (jumps).

So, if the rule is so simple, how do test-writers write their questions so at least a few test-takers select the incorrect response? They make their questions trickier by inserting prepositional phrases between the subject and the verb and masking the true subject. Don’t fall into their trap! Just ignore the prepositional phrase, identify the correct subject and make sure it agrees with the verb.

Here’s another example: One of the girls likes the movie. In this case, your subject is one (singular) and not the girls (plural), thus the verb likes must also be singular.

Another way the test-writers can confuse the issue is to use pronouns that are harder to identify as singular or plural. For example, the following pronouns are singular: each, either, neither, someone, somebody, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, no one, and nobody. Here are two examples:

Neither of the movies was very good.
Each of us is fond of chocolate.

However, when two or more subjects are joined by and, you must use a plural verb. When two or more subjects are joined by or or nor, the verb agrees with the subject nearest the verb. Finally, amounts are usually singular, as are titles. Here are some examples:

Hiking and camping are fun.
Neither the players nor the coach is late for practice.
Two hours is a long time to wait.
Great Expectations is a great book.


Try the following examples for practice.


Answers and Explanations

  1. The correct answer is B. The subject (Both) is plural and therefore requires a plural verb (have, not has). There is no need for a tense change in C or D. Choice C also repeats the same problem as the original phrasing.

  2. The correct answer is F. There is no error in the sentence as it is written. It’s difficult to look for something that isn’t there (i.e., an error), so eliminate the other answer choices one by one. Choice G changes were to was, or a plural verb to a singular verb. This is a good tip-off to check the subject. In this case, you have two subjects—the cruise (singular) and the sights (plural)—joined by nor. The subject closest to the verb determines whether the verb should be in singular or plural form. In this case, it must be plural. This same mistake is repeated in choice I, so you just have to check out choice H. Choice H changes we visited to we had been to visit which is unnecessarily wordy as well as passive. Choice F is best.


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Don Munce