Subject-verb disagreement is one of the commonest errors I see these days in business writing. People who have mastered punctuation, pronouns, and challenging word pairs still miss the occasional agreement problem.
Sometimes a plural verb is incorrectly paired with a singular subject, for example:
Each of the selected candidates have to write a personal statement. (Correct: Each . . . has)
And sometimes a singular verb is incorrectly matched with a plural subject, as in this error I recently heard on National Public Radio:
The chaos and violence continues in Iraq. (Correct: The chaos and violence continue–because chaos and violence are two distinct things.)
Test yourself on subject-verb agreement in these 10 sentences. Some sentences are correct.
- Options regarding the ways to handle the risk was discussed.
- Either Carolyn or her team members has copies of the rental agreement.
- Our recommendation and bid cover training in business writing, including grammar and punctuation.
- The advice from the senior team and the input from the public was considered in developing the program.
- Contributions raised at the annual event funds our local programs.
- Customer satisfaction and product reliability is our responsibility.
- Our team has been working diligently and is making excellent progress.
- Neither of her professional references have called me back yet.
- One of the reasons she contacted us are the accounts payable problems.
- This survey, along with earlier analyses, suggests that we increase prices.
Before you review the answers below, check to see whether you fixed seven incorrect sentences.
Here are corrections:
- Options regarding the ways to handle the risk were discussed. (options . . . were)
- Either Carolyn or her team members have copies of the rental agreement. (team members have)
- Correct–if the recommendation and bid are two separate pieces.
- The advice from the senior team and the input from the public were considered in developing the program. (the advice . . . and the input . . . were)
- Contributions raised at the annual event fund our local programs. (contributions . . . fund)
- Customer satisfaction and product reliability are our responsibility [or responsibilities]. (satisfaction and . . . reliability are)
- Correct. Team is singular in this context.
- Neither of her professional references has called me back yet. (neither . . . has)
- One of the reasons she contacted us is the accounts payable problems. (one . . . is)
- Correct. Ignore the phrase within commas when determining the verb.
My Microsoft grammar and spelling checker missed the errors in Numbers 5, 6, and 9 but identified all the other errors. It did not suggest changing the correct sentences.
Did any of these examples trick you?