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July 15, 2013


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Marlene Braxton

I was tripped up on #5 so much that I became an acrobat by the time I "settled" on the incorrect tense. I was surprised, however, that I erred on #2 identifying "samples" (were)as singular instead of focusing on "each" (is). But, that's what makes language fun. It is so very dynamic--and tricky!

Val S.

I caught these, but I knew what I was looking for! I think people trip up a lot in speech, but in writing they should take the time to think about it a little more. Also, in Britain at least, the word audience, like family or team, can be considered a plural noun, so they use a plural verb. It used to irritate me when I lived there. Now that we communicate globally so often, I see different usages spreading among all English speakers. Maybe in the US we'll eventually add the U to color and honor and favor!


Great use of strike-through to make those examples clear!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Marlene. You are not alone! "Settle" in Number 5 fools many people. I have been sharing that example in business writing classes at a particular company since I saw it in a class participant's writing sample there. Nearly everyone misses it.

Number 2 is another great challenge.

Thanks for commenting.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Val. Thank you for your comment on "audience." I just checked it in my "Gregg Reference Manual," and you are correct. It is a collective noun--even in the United States. That means the writer can choose to use a plural verb--for example, "are"--to emphasize that the audience is made up of individuals. I was thinking of it as one group, but the members of the group are acting alone.

I have changed that example from "audience" to "Board of Directors."

Thanks for keeping me honest--and correct!


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lester, thanks for your compliment! I too liked that use of strike-through.


Paula Diaco

Hi Lynn,

I love that I can identify a prepositional phrase in a sentence, and immediately know it has no part in the subject-verb agreement exercise. Thank you for showing us examples of other modifying phrases that can trip us up.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Paula, you are welcome! I know grammatical correctness is very important to you at your sign shop in Vermont, Sign-a-Rama.



I got all of them right yaaaayyy! On another note a friend and I were arguing over whether it was ok to start a sentence with "am" instead of "I am". Her argument is since the only acceptable subject for "am" is "I"; then omitting the subject should not affect the sentence since it can only have one meaning. An argument she supports by referencing foreign languages like Spanish or French where one may use the correct form of the verb without the subject eg Yo soy professora or soy professora. Both expressions mean I am a teacher. What do you think?


I had to read Number 5 a couple of times, but did get it in the end. I have to admit 6 stumped me and still feels a little stilted. Otherwise I got the rest right. I knew more than I thought! Thanks for another great article.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, Yvie. Thanks for the interesting question. In English, people do sometimes omit the subject "I" in informal communication. For example, "Am waiting for you in the lobby" or "Can't wait to see you!"

However, in normal professional messages (and even person ones), we nearly always use the subject. It's use is standard English.

Your friend can leave out the subject, but her communications will be considered informal--not professional.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Suze, I agree that some of these sentences require close scrutiny. If they were written more simply, we would not have to worry as much about subject-verb agreement.

Thanks for your comment and compliment.


Vimal Chokoor

Hi Lynn,

I have a question pertaining to sentence 5. I thought that the verb "settle" would be in past tense since "Testing showed that" shows that the action happened in the past.

Grateful if you could please advise me.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Good point, Vimal. Perhaps I should have written "testing shows" rather than "showed." That might be a better structure.

However, I do think it is correct to say "Testing showed that the temperature settles," assuming that whatever the testing showed (in this case the temperature settling) is still true.


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