Grammar Basics: Part 2 - School of Social Work

Subject/Verb Agreement/Tricky Words
Make sure the subject agrees with the
The girl [singular subject] reads
[singular verb] mystery stories.
 The girls [plural subject] read [plural
verb] mystery stories.
 Tonya [singular subject] is [singular
verb] asleep.
 Tonya and her friends [plural subject]
are [plural verb].
Don’t be confused by plural
words that come after the verb.
Wrong: My biggest problem are the
many incomplete homework
assignments I need to finish.
 Right: My biggest problem [singular
subject] is [singular verb] the many
incomplete homework assignments I
need to finish.
Don’t be confused by plural words that come
between a singular subject and verb
Wrong: The topic of these four books are
 Right: The topic [singular subject] of these
four books is [singular verb] horses.
Wrong: Each of the bikes have new tires.
 Right: Each [singular subject] of the bikes
has [singular verb] new tires.
Don’t be confused by subjects that
come at the end of the sentence.
Wrong: Standing at the back of the room was
my parents.
Helpful tip: Switch sentence around: My
parents were standing at the back of the
Right: Standing at the back of the room were
[plural verb] my parents [plural subject].
Wrong: At the end of most of our team’s
games come victory’s sweetness.
Right: At the end of most of our team’s games
comes [singular verb] victory’s sweetness
[singular subject].
Don’t be confused by phrases such as along with,
together with, accompanied by, as well as, including,
and in addition to.
Wrong:Tenita, as well as Ping, play
basketball well.
 Right: Tenita [singular subject], as well as
Ping, plays [singular verb] basketball
 Wrong: Broccoli, in addition to squash and
all other vegetables, are good for you.
 Right: Broccoli, [singular subject], in
addition to squash and all other
vegetables, is [singular verb] good for
Collective Nouns: Amounts and Numbers
A collective noun denotes a group of something: a family,
herd, team, majority, etc. Even though the noun suggests
more than one person it can be singular or plural
depending on how it is used in the sentence.
This class [singular subject] is [singular verb] in session.
(The class is referring to the whole, so it is a singular unit .)
The class [plural subject] are [plural subject] taking their
test. (The class, in this context, refers to each individual
taking their test and is plural.)
Wrong: The jury are returning with their decision. (Juries
always operate as a whole when they make decisions.)
Right: The jury [singular subject] is [singular verb]
returning with its decision.
Ten dollars [singular subject] is [singular verb] the
entry fee. (Ten dollars is considered one amount of
Six months [singular subject] is [singular verb]
needed to complete the assignment. (Six months,
in this sentence, is considered one unit of time).
Ten dollars [plural subject] were [plural verb]
tucked under my bed. (Each individual bill is
counted as the subject making it a plural subject.)
Six months [plural subject] have [plural verb]
passed since the assignment. ( In this context, six
months is considered six individual months).
Everybody, Anybody and Everybody
Wrong: Every one of the members of
both basketball teams are here.
 Right: Every one [singular subject] of
the members of both basketball teams
is [singular verb] here.
Even though these words represent plural
subjects, they are grammatically singular.
Tricky Words: Effect/Affect
Effect as a noun=the result or outcome
of something.
 If you don’t wear your bicycle helmet,
the effect could be very bad.
Effect as a verb=to cause or to bring
something into being.
 The teacher tried to effect a change in
the students’ study.
Affect as a noun: emotions (a very
rarely used word except by
 The child’s affect was very disturbed
after she saw the scary movie.
 Affect as a verb: to influence
 The movie didn’t affect me as much as
it did my little sister.
When to use effect…
If it’s a noun you need, always choose
effect (unless you’re a psychologist
talking about emotions).
 Scary movies have a bad effect on
many kids.
 My apology didn’t have the effect I
thought it would have.
When to use affect…
If it’s a verb you need, affect is the right
choice 90 percent of the time.
To be sure, substitute the words cause and
influence, and see which is better.
Right: Too much rainy weather affects
[influences] my mood; it makes me
Right: Too much rainy weather from the
hurricane effected [caused] flooding and
beach erosion.
Other Tricky Words…
All right or Alright? A lot and alot?
Alright is not a word. You may see it a lot,
but it does not exist. Alot is also not a
Wrong: It is not alright to write this way.
Right: It is all right to write this way.
Wrong: This is a goof that students make
Right: This is a goof that students make a
Elliot, R. (2006). Painless Grammar. New
York: Barron’s.
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