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Intervening Words in Subject-Verb Agreement – Mercurius
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Intervening Words in Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-verb agreement is essential in writing. It is the grammatical rule that ensures the subject and verb in a sentence agree in number. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular, and if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural too. However, it is often confused by intervening words.

Intervening words are words or phrases that separate the subject from the verb in a sentence. These words or phrases can be prepositional phrases, clauses, or even words that modify the subject.

For example:

“The book, along with its characters, has won many awards.”

In this sentence, the subject is “book,” which is singular. However, because of the intervening phrase “along with its characters,” the verb “has” becomes confusing. Many writers would mistakenly use the plural verb “have” instead of the correct singular verb “has.”

To avoid this mistake, it is important to identify the subject and verb in each sentence. Ignore the intervening words or phrases in between. Look for the actual subject and the verb that corresponds to it.

Another example:

“The dog, as well as the cats, loves to play in the garden.”

In this sentence, “dog” is the actual subject, and it is singular. Despite the intervening phrase “as well as the cats,” the verb “loves” remains singular. Why? Because “as well as” is not a conjunction that creates a compound subject. Instead, it adds additional information about the subject.

In some cases, intervening words can create compound subjects, which can be confusing. When two or more subjects are joined by conjunctions like “and,” “or,” or “nor,” the verb must agree with the number of subjects.

For example:

“The pen and the notebook are on the table.”

In this sentence, the subjects are “pen” and “notebook,” which are plural. Therefore, the verb “are” is also plural.

In conclusion, intervening words can be a stumbling block to subject-verb agreement. However, with careful attention to the actual subject and verb of each sentence, writers can avoid this common mistake. By mastering this grammatical rule, one can write with clarity and precision, making their content more impactful and meaningful to their readers.