SAT Study Guide/Part 4 - The Writing Section/Identifying Sentence Errors/Subjects with multiple nouns or pronouns

Subjects with multiple nouns or pronounsEdit

Plural SubjectsEdit

Nouns joined by and form compound subjects and require plural verbs.

The mice and keyboards is in the box.
Jack and Jill goes up the hill.

mice and keyboards is a compound subject and needs the verb is changed to are. Similarly, Jack and Jill is plural; this sentence requires need the plural go to make the subjects and verb agree.

Try these examples:

1) The bike and car goes inside the garage.
2)Several trees and a verdant bush grows outside the barn.


Answers

1) The bike and car go inside the garage.
bike and car is a plural subject (there are multiple nouns) so goes needs to be changed to go.

2)Several trees and a verdant bush grow outside the barn.
Several trees and a verdant bush is a plural subject so grows needs to be changed to grow


Singular Compound SubjectsEdit

In some cases, compound subjects can be singular. "Green eggs and ham", "Macaroni and cheese" and "PC Richards and Son" are examples of singular compound subjects. They act as a singular subject. Questions like these are rare but you should know them anyway. The problem is that these are usually idiomatic requires a knowledge of American culture in addition to English grammar.

Macaroni and cheese (A) are (B) my favorite meal.

Let's say this was the question (this example doesn't follow the format of the real test), how would you know if Macaroni and cheese is a plural subject or a singular subject? Only Macaroni and cheese and are are possible choices for an error. This means that meal must be correct. meal is singular which means the subject of this sentence has to be singular as well. are can be changed (since it's underlined) and it should be changed. After all, are is plural and we have a singular subject. To correct this sentence make the are an "is". This reasoning is an effective strategy to use on the writing section. There are many ways to fix a sentence but you are limited in what you can do on the test by what words are mutable and underlined.

Here are some more examples:

1) His pride and joy, a red convertible, were trashed in the accident.
2) "Heart and soul" were a popular song in the 1940s.


Answers

1) His pride and joy, a red convertible, was trashed in the accident.
pride and joy should be taken as a singular subject

2)"Heart and soul" was a popular song in the 1940s.
The song is "Heart and soul" and is a singular subject.


Or and Nor Joining Singular NounsEdit

When singular nouns are joined by "or" or "nor" a singular verb is needed.

Jack or Jill go up the hill.

This should be corrected as

Jack or Jill goes up the hill.

The two singular subjects, Jack and Jill are joined by "or" so a singular verb is needed. Think of it like this, only one child, either Jack or Jill, went up the hill. A plural verb shouldn't make sense since a plurality of children going up a hill doesn't exist, only one child.

Try these examples:

1) A glass of water or tea are what I ordered.
2)Neither Jack nor Jill plan to go up the hill.


Answers

1) A glass of water or tea is what I ordered.
A single glass of "water" or "tea" as our subject means we need a singular verb.

2) Neither Jack nor Jill plans to go up the hill.
We change the verb plan to plans because the singular Jack and Jill are joined by nor.

Or and Nor Joining Plural and Singular NounsEdit

The previous section covered the case when "or" or "nor" joins two singular subjects. But when "or" or "nor" join a plural and singular noun, the tense of the verb is determined by whichever word is closer to the verb. For an example look at the following grammatically correct sentences:

Neither Jill's friends nor Jack plans to go up the hill.
Neither Jack not Jill's friends plan to go up the hill.

Both of these sentences are equivalent statements. In the first sentence, Jack is closer to the verb, plans. Since Jack is singular, the verb is singular. In the second sentence, Jill's friends, a plural subject, is closer to the verb so the verb is in it's plural form.

Try these examples:

1) Either a pitcher of water or cups of tea is on the tray.
2) Neither french fries nor macaroni and cheese are cheap enough to fit my budget.


Answers

1) Either a pitcher of water or cups of tea are on the tray.
pitcher of water and cups of tea are singular and plural nouns respectively joined by "or". Since cups of tea is closer to the verb is, this verb needs to be in a form that reflects that it is closer to a plural subject. Change the is into an are to correct the error.

2) Neither french fries nor macaroni and cheese is cheap enough to fit my budget.
If you recall the previous section macaroni and cheese is a singular subject. Then it needs a singular verb to agree with it.

Or and Nor with Mixed Nouns and PronounsEdit

Now, let's look at the case when you mix up the nouns with or or nor. When you have sentences that contain pronouns and nouns that vary in person (that is, first person, second person, third person) joined by or or nor the verb has to agree with the person of the subject closest to it. Take a look at the following correct sentences.

Either Jack or you are going up the hill.
Neither you nor Jack is going up the hill.

These are examples of what it should look like. "You" is a second-person pronoun so when it is closer to the verb, the verb is expected to be in its second person form. In the second sentence, Jack is a third person subject so it needs a third person verb.

Try these examples:

1) Neither Jim nor I is going on vacation.
2) Either Jack or you is expected to show up.

Answers

1)Neither Jim nor I am going on vacation.
2)Either Jack or you are expected to show up.


Verb is determined by the subjectEdit

Lastly, remember not to confuse the subject no matter how many nouns or pronouns are present in the sentence.

The basket of apples are on the shelf

This sentence is incorrect. are is the wrong verb to use with the singular subject basket.

Last modified on 3 October 2011, at 19:07