Agreement after prepositional phrase (Skill 11)

Monday, 28 February 2011

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Subject/verb agreement is simple: if the subject of a sentence is singular, then the verb must be singular; if the subject of the sentence is plural, then the verb must be plural. An s on a verb usually indicates that a verb is singular, while an s on a noun usually indicates that the noun is plural. (Do not forget irregular plurals of nouns such as women, children, and people.)

The dog barks at night.

The dogs bark at night.

In the first example, the singular subject dog requires a singular verb, barks. In the second example, the plural subject dogs requires a plural verb, bark.

Sometimes prepositional phrases can come between the subject and the verb on the TOEFL test, and this can cause confusion. If the object of the preposition is singular and the subject is plural, or if the object of the preposition is plural and the subject is singular, there can be a problem in making the subject and verb agree.

In the first example, you might think that rooms is the subject because it comes directly in front of the verb are. However, rooms is not the subject because it is the object of the preposition to. The subject of the sentence is door, so the verb should be is. In the second example, you might think that room is the subject because it comes directly in front of the verb is. You should recognize in this example that room is not the subject because it is the object of the preposition to. Because the subject of the sentence is doors, the verb should be are.

The following chart outlines the key information that you should understand about subject/verb agreement with prepositional phrases.

EXERCISE 11: Each of the following sentences has one or more prepositional phrases between the subject and verb. Put parentheses around the prepositional phrases. Underline the subjects once and the verbs twice. Then indicate if the sentences are correct (C) or incorrect (I).

1. The subject (of the lectures) was quite interesting. (C)

  •  The subject is SUBJECT  and was is VERB. (Correct)
  •   "Lectures" is not SUBJECT, it is object after preposition "OF".
2. The supplies (for the camping trip) needs to be packed. (I)

  • SUBJECT is The supplies and VERB is needs.( incorrect).
  • Needs should be Need because The supplies is plural
  • "the camping trip" is only object after prepositional "FOR".
3. The chairs under the table in the dining room is quite comfortable. (I)

  • SUBJECT is "The chairs" and VERB is  "is". (Incorrect).
  • "is" should be "are" because "The chairs" is plural.
  • "the dining room" is only object after prepepostion    
4. The players on the winning team in the competition were very talented. (C)

  • SUBJECT is The players and VERB is were. (correct)
5. The food for the guests at the party are on the long tables.

  • SUBJECT is The food and VERB is are. (Incorrect)
  • "are" should be "is" because The food is uncountable noun/singular

6. The cost of the clothes was higher than I had expected. (C)

  • SUBJECT is The cost and VERB is was. (Correct)
7. The rugs in the front rooms of the house are going to be washed today.(C)

  • SUBJECT is The rugs and VERB is are. (Correct)
8. The servers in this restaurant always does their job efficiently. (I)

  • SUBJECT is "The servers" and VERB is "does". (incorrect).
  • "does" should be "do" because the servers is plural.
9. The lights in the corner of the room need to be kept on all night.(C)

  • SUBJECT is "The lights" and VERB is "need". (Correct)
10. The meeting of the members of the council begins at 3:00 in the afternoon. (C)

  • SUBJECT is "the meeting" and VERB is "begins". (Correct)

Next problem/skill: Problem/skill with Agreement after expression of quantity (some, all, half, most and part).
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