The Way I Are

Full disclosure: This Writing Wednesday is going to start with the super obvious and end with a decent dose of trickery, so don’t bail on me too early.

We’re gonna talk subject-verb agreement.

In a nutshell, when you have a singular subject, it needs a singular verb. Plural subjects need plural verbs.

See what I just did? Same verb, different subjects—different conjugations. (We’ll get into that terrifying word some other Wednesday.)

If you ever catch yourself overthinking whether or not your subject and verb agree, look for the S.

If your subject has an S, the verb probably won’t. If the subject is singular (no S), your verb likely needs one.

She takes her dog to the park when the weather is nice.
The Simpsons take a vacation to the Bahamas every Christmas.

This is the part where you sit there saying, “Duh, Alli.” And I don’t blame you. It’s common sense.

But there are a few instances in which it’s not so obvious.

Think about “everyone” and “everybody”. Those are used to refer to multiple people, so you’d use “are” right? Nah.

Look at them as “every one” and “every body“—those read as singular subjects, even if you’re talking about a group.

Everyoneeverybodysomeoneanybody, no one and nobody always go with is.

All and some could be either, it just depends on what they’re referring to.

“All of the water (no S) is gone.”
“Some of the shoes (S) are beyond repair.”

Please, please, PLEASE read that last one again.

All and some are not the subject. They’re referring to the subject you want the verb to agree with.

Here’s all the ways you can revamp an outdated bathroom. Double S? The WORST.

The following are a list of tips to lose weight fast. Honestly, no S at all might be worse. And this one isn’t even a matter of pronouns—just misidentifying the subject altogether. (It’s list, not tips.)

See how that can get on a person’s nerves after a while? Be kind to those pronouns, please.

None is weird and sounds fine with either, regardless of the subject.

But the trickiest of all might be each, because it’s usually referring to a group of things, so you’d assume a plural verb is the way to go. Instead, each is like Everyone & Co., it’s always singular.

“Each of the players has his own locker.”

And as much as I’d love to get into the crazy rules for either and neither, and what conjunctions do to mess everything up—not to mention positive and negative subjects in the same sentence—this puppy is already a decent length, so I’ll save ’em for another time.

Just remember, nine times out of 10, you should have an S attached to something.

 

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Title Credit: Timbaland

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