The following is an extract from the first module of the Crack-GMAT Verbal Tutorial. There are eight such modules in the tutorial, and each module is followed by an interactive practice exercise comprising several GMAT type questions. Once you complete the eight modules, there are five additional practice exercises.

 

Module 1 : Subject - Verb Agreement

In the beginning there’s the Sentence…….

THE SENTENCE

Let’s start with the basics. The fundamental unit of any language is the “letter of the alphabet”, a set of letters can be arranged to form a word, and a set of words forms a sentence. For a sentence to be grammatically correct, it must

       contain a “subject” and a “verb”, and

       be meaningful.

Perhaps the simplest sentence in English language is spoken by the bridegroom at the wedding altar : “I do.” This three lettered structure fulfils the above two criteria, and so is grammatically a perfect sentence (just as well, for the bridegroom does commit himself to a sentence of another kind when he utters this sentence!)

THE SUBJECT

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     This course is specially designed for South Asian students. 

[1]

 

       The box of chocolates is lying on the table.

[2]

 

       India and Pakistan are playing four test matches this year.              

[3]

 

       On second thoughts, I  would rather take a bus.                                             

[4]

 

Now, the subject has a ‘number’, i.e., it is either singular or plural. The subjects in examples [1], [2], and [4] above are singulars, while the one in [3] is plural. Multiple subjects joined by ‘and’ make them plural, as in example [3].

The subject also has a ‘person’ – it can be first, second, or third person. The following table exemplifies this :

 

First Person

Second Person

Third Person

Singular

I

You

He, She, It, Singular Nouns

Plural

We, All of us

You all, All of you

They, Plural Nouns

The subject in example [4] above is in the first person while those in the other three examples, are in the third person.

 

THE VERB

If “I” in “I do” is the subject, then “do” is, you guessed it, the verb! Verbs usually denote action in a sentence, they represent that which is done (or what the subject does) in the sentence. Also, they indicate the “state of being” of the noun – as in example [1] above. These “state of being” verbs are called the “to be” form of the verb. In examples [2], [3], and [4] above, the words “is lying”, “are playing” and “take” are respectively the verbs denoting some kind of an action.

            ..............................More on this in the tutorial.......................

Now that the subject and the verb have met, let’s make them agree……  

SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT

       The verb in the sentence should agree with the number (singular or plural) and person of the subject. A singular subject takes a singular verb and a plural subject takes a plural verb.

 

 

[1]       

The set of rules was difficult to follow.

 

 

[2]       

The rules were difficult to follow.

 

 

An ‘s’ added to a noun indicates the plural form but ‘s’ added to a verb denotes third person singular.

 

 

[3]           

The building stands beside the park.

 

 

[4]           

The buildings stand beside the park.

 

 

       Subjects joined by “and” are usually plural and take plural verbs.

 

 

 

[5]           

The batsman and the bowler were both reprimanded by the umpire.

 

 

           

EXCEPTION 1 : When the two singular noun subjects connected by “and” refer to the same person or thing, the singular verb is used.

           

 

 

[6]           

The recently appointed coach and manager of the team has emphasized the need for physical fitness. (note that in this case, the definite article “the” is used only once)

 

 

[7]           

Bread and butter is our staple breakfast.

 

 

        

EXCEPTION 2 : When two subjects connected by “and” are preceded by each, every, and many a, a singular verb is used.

 

 

 

[8]           

Each employer and employee is bound by certain codes of conduct.

 

 

[9]           

Every shirt, trouser, and jacket is marked for reduction sale.          

 

 

            ..............................More on this in the tutorial.......................

 

 

                           

These set the ground rules for subject-verb agreement. GMAT Sentence Correction often tests you for this : in fact, the first thing you ought to look for in a sentence is whether the subject and the verb are in agreement. The GMAT makes it difficult by keeping the subject and the verb in the sentence far apart from each other. Consider this example :

 

 

 

[41]           

The high rate of taxes, together with lackadaisical revenue collection infrastructure, is/are the primary reason(s) for widespread tax evasion in the country.                                  

 

 

“Is” or “are”, which is correct? First, identify the main subject : it’s “high rate of taxes”; rate is singular, so the verb would be the singular “is”. The other subject in the sentence (a lackadaisical revenue collection infrastructure) is linked to the main subject by the phrase “together with” (see examples [9] to [12]), so would not affect the number of the verb. Hence, the correct sentence reads :

 

 

 

           

The high rate of taxes, together with lackadaisical revenue collection infrastructure, is the primary reason for widespread tax evasion in the country.

 

 

Let’s look at another example :

 

 

 

[42]           

Paramount among the many problems which the Indian villagers have to face is/are that of extremely inadequate power supply.

 

 

Notice something peculiar about this sentence? GMAT questions sometimes test you with unconventional sentence structure, similar to this one, where the subject actually comes after the verb. Here, the subject is : extremely inadequate power supply. The sentence framed the conventional way would make this apparent : Extremely inadequate power supply is the paramount problem which the Indian villagers have to face. Thus, the verb would be “is”, singular, to agree with the singular subject “power supply.”