Grammar Tips

Since English is effectively a mish-mash of so many different languages, it can also be one of the most difficult languages to learn. English grammar can be very confusing. For every rule that you encounter, there are inevitably countless exceptions. If you want to be taken seriously and to be respected, you need to have good grammar. I hope these Grammar 101 posts are helpful in that regard.

Today, we’re taking a look at the concept of subject-verb agreement. Most of us know that verbs must be conjugated or “altered” to fit the noun that is performing the action. For example, I could say that I run but Timmy runs. This is similar to what you would do if you wanted to make something past tense. Conjugating verbs to fit the subject seems simple enough when they are right next to one another, but it can get a little awkward when the subject and verb are interrupted by an intermediary phrase.

What do I mean by this? Let’s take this example:

Taylor Pyatt, who sometimes plays on the same line as the Sedin twins, wears number 9 on his jersey.

The verb “to wear” must be conjugated to fit with the subject “Taylor Pyatt,” even though there is the phrase about the Sedin twins that fits in between them. It would not be appropriate to take on the plural form of “to wear” (wear) to match with the plural Sedin twins, because they are not the subject of the sentence. To know what form of the verb you should use, remove the interrupting phrase. In this case, we would say “Taylor Pyatt wears number 9 on his jersey.”

What about this example?

The jersey for hockey teams like the Vancouver Canucks has changed many times in the last 15 years.

It would be incorrect to use “have” in this sentence, despite its proximity to the plural nouns “teams” and “Canucks.” The verb “to have” corresponds to the singular subject “jersey.” As before, remove the interjecting phrase (“for hockey teams like the Vancouver Canucks” in this case) to see what verb form you should be using.

Whether you are blogging for yourself or blogging for others, you should try your best to be impeccable with your grammar. Do you have any grammar-related questions or concerns that would like to see clarified? If you ask through the comment form below, your question just may be addressed in a future edition of Grammar 101.