5 subject-verb disagreements

When crafting sentences, writers must take care to check that verbs are inflected to correspond with the subject—the word or phrase the verb pertains to—which is not necessarily the most adjacent noun. The following sentences, each discussed and revised beneath the examples, demonstrate the various pitfalls one can encounter with this issue.

1. Demonstrating effective continuous-monitoring programs have also helped leading institutions meet heightened regulatory expectations.

The verb following programs pertains not to that word but to demonstrating—it is the act of demonstrating, not the programs, that has provided the assistance referred to here, so has is the correct form of the verb: “Demonstrating effective continuous-monitoring programs has also helped leading institutions meet heightened regulatory expectations.”

2. Nearly one in three organizations spend less than one million dollars annually on compliance with the regulation.

In sentences such as this in which a phrase refers to a proportion of a whole in which the proportion is one, the verb should be singular: “Nearly one in three organizations spends less than one million dollars annually on compliance with the regulation.”

3. Implementing simplistic solutions based on symptomatic causes, or a single cause when there are multiple interacting causes, are highly likely to end in failure and disappointment.

When two choices are presented as alternatives rather than as a combination, with or rather than and linking them, a singular verb is appropriate because it applies only to the first option: “Implementing simplistic solutions based on symptomatic causes, or a single cause when there are multiple interacting causes, is highly likely to end in failure and disappointment.”

4. The patchwork of federal and state regulations have left firms with great uncertainty about how to comply.

The verb applies to the subject patchwork, not to the phrase modifying the subject, so has, not have, is correct: “The patchwork of federal and state regulations has left firms with great uncertainty about how to comply.”

5. I feel that each of these skills are crucial for this job.

The subject of this sentence is each, not skills, so the associated verb must be singular: “I feel that each of these skills is crucial for this job.”

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