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Speak good English - Get it correct

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BY: Junior Graphic

Last week we began looking at this knotty aspect of subject/verb agreement or concord — a verb that is separated from its subject.

We said when a verb is far removed from its subject, the tendency is to forget about the subject altogether and instead make the verb agree with a noun closer to it, which will render the sentence incorrect.

Usually, when a subject and its verb are close to each other, we remember to make the two agree in terms of number and in person, as in:

1. The flowers need water to grow well.

2.The woman is beautiful.

3. Mr Osei's youngest daughter wants to be a lawyer.

In sentence 1 above, the subject, flowers, which is plural, is close to the verb and so selecting the plural verb need is not difficult at all.

The same applies to sentence 3, whose subject, daughter, is singular, for which reason the verb is singular: wants.

But in situations where the verbs are far away from their subjects, selecting the appropriate verbs becomes tricky, as in:

1. The flowers in the pot on the front wall — water.

2. The woman who lives in one of those new houses — beautiful.

3. The youngest of Mr Osei's five beautiful daughters — to become a lawyer.

In sentence 1 above, as many as seven words separate the verb from the subject flowers, while there is the  singular noun wall just before the verb.

If you're not careful, this singular noun can deceive you to select a singular verb, which will not agree with the actual subject flowers.

In other words, the sentence:

The flowers in the pot on the front wall needs water is incorrect because it is the flowers that need water,  not the wall.

In sentence 2, it is the woman who is beautiful, not the new houses, so the sentence should be:

The woman who lives in one of those new houses is beautiful.

NOT
The woman who lives in one of those new houses are beautiful.

Can you analyse sentence 3 the same way?