Unit 2: Verb Agreement

The SAT will test to make sure you know how subjects and verbs work together.

Example:

Jasmine always _______ a movie before going to bed.

A) watch

B) watching

C) watches

D) are watching

Strategy:

  1. Look at the answer choices and determine if they’re all verbs. If they seem to change based on what pronoun goes in front of them, then they’re most likely verbs.
  1. Locate the subject. Try asking yourself ‘what,’ or ‘who’ is doing the underlined action.
  1. Replace the subject with he/she, it, or they.
  1. Conjugate the verb with that pronoun.

For the example above, 

  1. Looking at the answer choices, we see all verbs.
  2. By asking ‘who’ does the movie watching, we can determine the subject to be Jasmine.
  3. Jasmine would be replaced by she.
  4. She watches a movie.

A verb must agree with its subject in number.

A singular subject requires the singular form of the verb.

Michelle reads the newspaper every morning.

A plural subject requires the plural form of the verb.

Many people read the newspaper every morning.

Michelle and her Dad read the newspaper every morning.

A verb’s subject is often not the noun closest to it in the sentence.

Wild animals in jungles all over the world are endangered.

Be sure to “match” all verbs to their appropriate subject nouns.

Compound subjects are grammatically plural.

Her drive, experience, and professionalism make her an excellent person for the job.

Because those three traits are being combined, they become a plural subject, which would be replaced by they.

Be careful: some sentences may look like compound subjects, but aren’t.

Greed, along with gullibility, is the reason that so many people bought junk bonds.

The sentence is setting aside along with gullibility by using two commas. Therefore the only necessary and relevant subject is greed.

Collective nouns are grammatically singular.

Collective nouns are nouns that name entities with more than one member, such as group, team, and family.  Even though these nouns represent more than one person, they are grammatically singular and require singular verb forms.

The collection of paintings entitled “Matisse in Morocco” is one of the most widely viewed art exhibits in recent years.

In some rare cases, the subject can come after the verb it is matching with.

When this occurs, stick to the strategy to locate the subject.

There is a reason to rejoice.

This sentence is actually saying, “A reason to rejoice is there.” 

There are many reasons to rejoice.

This sentence is actually saying, “Many reasons to rejoice are there.”

In front of the library sits a man with a book.

In front of the library sit two classmates studying physics.

Keep asking yourself “who” or “what” is doing the verb.

Parallel Structure

The SAT will occasionally test you on putting a sentence into proper parallel structure.

Example: Martin Luther King Jr. is admired for his courage, his dedication, ________.

A) and being intelligent.
B) and for his being intelligent.
C) and his intelligence.
D) and intelligence.

Hint: It can be difficult to identify parallel structure questions. Any time your answer is part of a list, think of this!

Strategy:

  1. Read the entire sentence.
  2. Search for the component of the sentence that the underlined portion should match with.
  3. Identify if there are any shared words (like ‘to’ being shared by several components).
  4. Match the styles.

Items in a series or list must be parallel in form.  Series and lists may consist of nouns, adverbs, adjectives, or verb forms.

WRONG: I love skippingjumping, and to play baseball.
WRONG: I love to skipjump, and to play baseball.
RIGHT:  I love to skipjump, and play baseball.
RIGHT:  I love to skipto jump, and to play baseball.
RIGHT:  I love skippingjumping, and playing baseball.

WRONG: To visualize success is not the same as achieving it.
RIGHT:  To visualize success is not the same as to achieve it.
RIGHT:  Visualizing success is not the same as achieving it.

Traps

The single biggest trick the SAT throws at you is separating the subject and the verb with prepositional phrases and other unnecessary words. The thought of many of the members of the audience is …

They will also rarely put the subject after the verb – don’t be fooled by this, the test is the same, who or what is doing the action. At the end of the driveway sits a rusty mailbox.