Noun–Verb Agreement

Nouns and verbs must agree in number. That is, singular nouns must have singular verbs; plural nouns must be accompanied by plural verbs.

The Identifying Sentence Errors section of the SAT almost always includes questions that expect you to recognize agreement errors. Sometimes the error occurs when the subject of the sentence fails to agree with its verb. Just as often, though, the error exists between some other noun and verb in the sentence. Errors occur most often when:

1. Intervening words obscure the relationship between the noun and verb.

2. A singular noun sounds as though it is plural.

3. The noun is one that can be either singular or plural, depending on its use.

4. The noun comes after the verb in the sentence.

Sample Questions Containing Noun–Verb Agreement Errors

1. Ian”s achievement images in addition to his images as a speaker, images him a popular images on television cooking shows. images

The subject of the sentence is the singular noun achievement. The verb make is plural. Because the noun and verb don”t agree, choice is the correct answer. Note that words and phrases coming between a subject and a verb rarely affect the number of the verb.

2. Behind the house images one broken-down shed and one pile of rubble images need images to the town dump. images

In this sentence, the subject words (shed and pile) come after the verb (is). Because the subject is a compound subject (two nouns joined by and ), it is considered plural and must be accompanied by a plural verb. Instead of is, use are. Choice A is the correct answer.

3. images a million and a half dollars images on repairing the road, but only recently images the shoddy construction methods images evident. images

The plural noun methods fails to agree with the singular verb has … become. Because has should be have, choice C is the correct answer.

Pronoun–Antecedent Agreement

Like nouns and verbs, pronouns and antecedents must also agree in number. Singular pronouns need singular antecedents; plural pronouns, plural antecedents. The Identifying Sentence Errors section on the SAT almost always includes one or more questions that test your ability to recognize errors in agreement between pronouns and their antecedents.

Sample Questions Containing Errors in Pronoun–
Antecedent Agreement

1. In some cultures a woman images a role in life and is images reminded of images duties images men. images

The plural pronoun their refers to the singular antecedent woman. Use her instead of their. Because the pronoun and antecedent don”t agree, choice C is the correct answer.

2. The branches of the university, images a “no-layoff” policy, began changing images the pressure of financial losses. images

The singular pronoun its fails to agree with its antecedent branches. Because their should be its, choice C is the correct answer.

Practice in Recognizing Pronoun–Antecedent Agreement

Directions: Check the following sentences for errors in agreement between pronoun and antecedent. Use the space provided after each sentence to write your corrections. Some sentences contain no errors.

1. The coach said that everyone on the girls” basketball team will be required to get their physicals by the start of practice on Tuesday.

2. All of his male relatives live in their own condos.

3. Not one of us girls likes to have their schedule changed so late in the term.

4. By October the maple trees will be wearing its fall colors.

5. All those who want to go on the trip must bring his money tomorrow.

6. The library is again displaying their collection of rare books.

7. The senior class was proud of the way they conducted themselves at the graduation ceremonies.

8. Not a boy or a girl in the class was willing to donate their time and energy to such a frivolous undertaking.

9. When teachers retire, the yearbook is often dedicated to them.

10. These potter”s wheels are relics of the past, but it still can be turned easily.

Faulty Pronoun Reference

Another common error occurs when pronouns fail to refer clearly to their antecedents. When the reference is unclear or ambiguous, the meaning of the sentence suffers.

Sample Question Containing Pronoun Reference Errors

Sarah and her colleague, Kate, images equal bonuses from images boss last Christmas but images got a bigger one this year images her outstanding work. images

Because the pronoun she may refer to Sarah or to Kate, the reference is ambiguous. To fix the problem, use Sarah or Kate in place of she. Choice C is the correct answer.

Practice in Identifying Faulty Pronoun Reference

Directions: The following sentences contain faulty pronoun references. Write a revised version of each sentence in the space provided.

1. Mrs. Parker loves to knit and spends most of her time doing it.

2. At the end, with all the questions on the test answered, I handed them in.

3. Peggy told Eileen that she was sure that she had handed in the homework.

4. Bill let his father know that he had only ten minutes left on the parking meter.

5. During Truman”s presidency, he sent troops to fight in Korea.

6. Henry, a helicopter pilot, regularly flies it on rescue missions.

7. In Fitzgerald”s The Great Gatsby, he wrote about the American Dream.

8. She decided to buy a high-definition television, which is just what he wanted.

9. The agreement between Joan and Jane fell apart after she failed to show up for the meeting.

10. After the interview, Mike told Tom that he would probably like spending the next four years at Dartmouth.

Shift in Pronoun Person

Pronouns must also agree in person throughout a sentence. A sentence cast in first person, for example, should remain so from start to finish. On the SAT, you may find sentences containing improper shifts from one person to another.

Sample Question Containing Shift in Pronoun Person

Although one images that images is going to be excellent preparation for life, images one actually experiences does not always images expectations. images

The sentence begins using one, a pronoun that should be followed by one or by such third-person pronouns as he, she, himself, and herself. Because the pronoun your is in the second person, an improper shift has occurred, making choice B the correct answer.

Faulty Pronoun Case

Pronouns must be in the proper case. Nominative case pronouns are reserved for grammatical subjects and predicate nominatives. Objective case pronouns are used everywhere else. Problems arise when writers fail to identify grammatical subjects or when they mix pronouns from different cases in the same phrase.

Sample Questions Containing Errors in Pronoun Case

1. I learned images the speeches given by images could images be heard at the back of the auditorium. images

Because the construction by George and I is a prepositional phrase, the pronoun must be in the objective case. Use me instead of I. Choice C is the correct answer.

2. Having made images persuasive proposal, images images the job of images the school cafeteria. images

Because the phrase Carl, Mack, and him is the subject of the sentence, the pronoun should be in the nominative case. Use he instead of him. Choice B is the correct answer.

Practice in Recognizing Shifts in Pronoun Person
and Errors in Pronoun Case

Directions: Find the pronoun errors in the following sentences. Write the correct pronoun in the space provided. Some sentences contain no errors.

1. The biggest difference between her and I is our view on gun control.

2. My aunt sent Sam and I a calendar for the new year.

3. We”re going to ask Gert and he to go to the movies on Saturday.

4. When employees are laid off a job, you collect unemployment.

5. Us women take sexual harassment very seriously.

6. Are you expecting Jonathan and he to call tonight?

7. If you are scheduled to deliver the speech to the class, one should expect to take your turn on Monday.

8. Him and I plan to drive to Danbury tonight.

9. If you really want to get better at the piano, one really needs to practice.

10. Them singing at the top of their lungs disturbed the quiet neighborhood.

11. Tim is more interested in applying to Oregon State than her.

12. The group asked us guys to pitch in on the drive for canned goods.

13. Most runners say they have to run every day in order to keep yourself in shape.

14. The last time I saw him, he was as tall as me, if not taller.

15. I never spoke with them, neither she nor her sister.

Faulty Verb Tense

Verb tense indicates when an action takes place. When a sentence contains a verb in the wrong tense or when an improper shift in tense occurs from one part of the sentence to the other, the meaning of the sentence suffers.

Sample Question Containing Faulty Verb Tense

1. The scene involves both Macbeth and Banquo images riding across the heath images they images the three witches, images the three hags or three weird sisters. images

The main verb of the sentence is involves, a verb in the present tense. Having been cast in the present tense, the sentence should remain so throughout, but the verb encountered is in the past tense. A shift has occurred, making choice C the correct answer.

2. State laws images that bicyclists shall wear images helmets and images all traffic signs images to automobile drivers. images

The verb shall wear casts the sentence in the future tense. The verb shall have obeyed, however, is in the future perfect tense. Therefore, C is the correct answer.

Practice in Identifying Faulty Verb Tenses

Directions: In these sentences, many of the underlined verbs are in the wrong tense. Write the revised verbs in the spaces provided. Some sentences contain no error.

1. They biked to the top of the mountain and then come back down in time to eat lunch.

2. The garage mechanic thinks that Mrs. Murphy has brought her car in last night.

3. For anyone with enough brains to have thought about the problem, now is the time to work out a solution.

4. When Washington was sworn in as president, he rode to New York from his home in Virginia.

5. If the wagon train would have reached Salt Creek in time, the massacre would have been prevented.

6. The aircraft controller expects to have spotted the plane on radar before dusk last night.

7. The family already finished dinner when the doorbell rang.

8. First he built a fire, then dragged a log over to use as a seat, and finally collected enough wood to keep the fire going all night.

9. Rose kept the promise she has given to Charles last year in India.

10. When he talks with Horatio, Hamlet began to suspect foul play in the kingdom.

11. As they drove to Vermont, they had stopped for lunch at Bucky”s Bagel Shop.

12. On Route 684, a trooper pulls him over and gave him a speeding ticket.

13. Working all year to improve her writing, Debbie got a story published in the newspaper.

14. That night at the show we met many people that we saw that afternoon.

15. Once the drought had hit eastern Africa, the Somalis have suffered terribly.

Faulty Verb Form

Every verb has several forms, among them (1) the present, as in laugh; (2) the past, formed by adding –ed to the present, as in laughed; and 3) the participle, formed by adding has, had, or have to the verb”s past tense, as in has laughed and had laughed. The vast majority of English verbs follow this pattern. But some verbs, called irregular verbs, don”t follow it. Examples include break (break, broke, has broken), begin (begin, began, has begun), and rise (rise, rose, has risen).

On the SAT a question relating to a verb form, especially to an irregular verb form, appears occasionally.

Sample Question Containing Faulty Verb Form

1. images Dave went to dinner at the professor”s home, he combed his hair, images in a jacket and tie, and images the hostess a bouquet images images

Having begun in the past tense, the sentence requires other verbs to be in the past tense. The verbs went, combed, and dressed are in the proper form. The word brang is not. The past form of the verb to bring is brought. Therefore, choice C is the correct answer.

2. Ms. Barnes images the paper may have been plagiarized, but Ray insisted that he images it images and images he could prove it. images

The sentence contains five verbs. Only one, had wrote, is not in the proper form. Because the past participle of the verb to write is had written, choice B is the correct answer.

Practice in Identifying Faulty Verb Forms

Directions: In these sentences, the underlined verbs may not be in the proper form. Write the correct form in the spaces provided. Some verbs may be correct.

1. Brian use to arrive late to class almost every day.

2. Conflicts between loggers and environmentalists have regularly arose in the Northwest and other areas of the country.

3. Given the choice of Monday, Wednesday, or Friday for her talk, Gwen demanded to speak on Thursday.

4. After dinner, Sarah cleared the table and blowed out the candles.

5. They had began practice on their own before the coach arrived.

6. When the engine overheated, the radiator hose had bursted.

7. To get a front-row seat, you should have went to the play earlier than you did.

8. The chorus messed up that song because they had never sang it before.

9. Halfway to town I realized that the front tire of my bike had sprang a leak.

10. The novels of Judy Blume have managed attracting millions of adolescent readers.

A Review

While answering Identifying Sentence Error questions, use this checklist as a guide.

images If a verb is underscored, search for errors in tense, form, agreement with the subject or other noun, and parallel structure.

images If a noun is underscored, search for errors in number and agreement with a verb, parallelism, and word choice.

images If a pronoun is underscored, search for errors in case, number, gender, agreement with antecedent, reference to a noun or another pronoun, and agreement with verb and parallel structure.

images If an adjective or an adverb is underscored, search for errors in word choice, modification, and comparative degree.

images If a phrase or clause is underscored, search for errors in parallel structure and sentence structure.

images If a participle is underscored, search for an error in modification.