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Is: A Singular Verb

In the last hour of reading my email, I have read three sentences whose subjects and verbs do not agree. In each example, the verb is is.

  1. Attached is the evaluations.
  2. Your insight and feedback is very important to me and my team.
  3. Computer languages is very definitive.

Here is the problem: The subject of a sentence must have a verb that matches it. In grammar terms, this is called “subject-verb agreement.” The verb is is singular–that is, it matches single subjects rather than plural ones. The plural verb form is are.

Here are correct versions of those sentences:

  1. Attached are the evaluations. [more than one evaluation]
  2. Your insight and feedback are very important to me and my team. [insight and feedback–more than one subject]
  3. Computer languages are very definitive. [more than one language]

These are also correct:

  1. Attached is the evaluation. [one evaluation]
  2. Your feedback is very important to me and my team. [one subject: feedback]
  3. This computer language is very definitive. [one language]

Microsoft Office’s grammar and spelling checker flags only some of these errors. That is why it is important to proofread to catch these errors ourselves.

If you think you may make this mistake often, do an EDIT:FIND before sending a document. Find instances of the word is. Then be sure the subject (the thing that is) is singular (just one thing). If it is more than one thing (for example, languages or insight and feedback), change your verb to are.

All of us make this mistake at times. I say this because I myself groaned last week when I noticed that one of my published articles included a similar error. Yikes! Here is a slightly edited version of the embarrassing sentence:

Is grammar, spelling, and punctuation important in email?

Of course, grammar, spelling, and punctuation are three subjects! They require the verb are.

If you write English as a foreign language (EFL), do not feel alone in making mistakes with subject-verb agreement. People who have been speaking and writing English all their lives make these mistakes. Yes, even people who teach business writing do!

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.