Monday, January 10, 2005

Subject-Verb Agreement (2)

Another problem that can arise in identifying subjects is when the subject is separated from the verb by phrases or clauses.

The women who drove the trucks are now asleep in the hotel.

Women is the subject of are, but they (the women) are also the subject of drove because the relative pronoun who refers to women. Consequently, both drove and are have to agree with the subject, women.

Textbooks often discuss the fact that many words can be used between the subject and the verb as we saw above with the relative clause and the prepositional phrases.

Driving to Miami from Gainesville takes several hours.

The women who drove the trucks are now asleep in the hotel.

In the first case, the prepositional phrases come between the subject and the verb. In the second case, the relative clause (adjective clause) comes between the subject and the verb.

In each case, we can examine the sentence, locate the verb and look for the subject of the verb. In the first case, only driving is left as a possible subject after we remove the prepositional phrases.

Driving ... takes several hours.

This sentence is not very informative, but it is stripped down to subject and verb phrase to illustrate my point. In the other sentence, we can do the same thing.

The women who drove the trucks are now asleep in the hotel.

If we remove the adjective clause, we have a simpler sentence:

The women are now asleep in the hotel.

Another way to approach this problem of identifying the subject is to identify the verbs and identify the subjects of the verbs.

The women who drove the trucks are now asleep in the hotel.

Drove is our first verb. The relative pronoun who doesn’t tell us very much. With relative pronouns, we should identify the reference for the pronoun. So who is the subject, and who refers back to women. The verb has to agree with the subject, women.

Are is our second verb. Now we need to work backward. First, we eliminate the adjective clause. That leaves us with women as the only noun in front of the verb and thus the subject.

To summarize, we can approach the problem of identifying the subject and verb by beginning with the subject or by beginning with the verb. Identifying the subject and the verb will help us make our decisions about subject-verb agreement.

2 comments:

Gazal said...

very informative...
this is a must before we begin teaching subject verb agreement in the class.

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