In today’s lesson post, we’ll look at noun-verb agreement. As usual, this lesson is inspired by the errors I’ve seen on actual blog posts. Writers who aren’t being careful about their grammar can too easily have nouns and verbs that disagree.
In case you forgot the grammar lesson from school, here is a reminder: A singular noun takes a singular verb, and a plural noun takes a plural verb.
This sounds simple, and it can be. But it can also get complex as sentences get more complex. This rule will make more sense if we look at some examples and the explanations of how to fix them. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Example 1: Company B’s social media goal setting include establishing connections for both the artist and organizations, to include purchase of art.
This example came from a professional monetized site about social media management.
The error: The noun is “goal setting,” which is singular. The verb is “include,” which is plural.
The fix: To make them agree, we need to make the verb singular.
The correct sentence: Company B’s social media goal setting includes establishing connections for both the artist and organizations, to include purchase of art.
Example 2: Is Promotional Items Effective in Bringing More Customers to Your Business?
This one came from the owner of an advice blog for new entrepreneurs.
The error: This was the headline to a blog post, so the agreement error was the first thing I saw in rather large text. Since it’s a question, the noun and verb are turned around. The noun in question is “promotional items,” which is plural, and the verb is “is,” which is singular.
The fix: This verb needs to be made plural so it agrees with the noun.
The correct sentence: Are Promotional Items Effective in Bringing More Customers to Your Business?
Example 3: Write out how the list relate to the other lists according to your sales funnel.
This example is from the monetized blog of someone who sells home business coaching services and advice for women.
The error: The noun, list, is singular, and the verb, relate, is plural.
The fix: This can be fixed in the same way as the previous two examples: by making both the noun and verb singular or making both plural. In this case, you can fix it either way, by writing either “list relates” or “lists relate.”
The correct sentence: Write out how the list relates to the other lists according to your sales funnel. OR Write out how the lists relate to the other lists according to your sales funnel.
The final lesson: Make sure the noun and verb agree in number. Both should be either singular or plural.
Knowing the difference between singular and plural nouns is usually pretty easy. If it has an “s” on the end, it’s usually plural. Exceptions are irregular nouns, such as goose, which becomes geese, or mouse, which becomes mice. But knowing when verbs are plural requires remembering some conjugation rules. Verbs don’t necessarily become plural by adding an “s.” For example, “I play ball” is first person singular, but “We play ball” is first person plural. “He plays ball” is third person singular, even though it has an “s” on the end.
Most of these rules are probably second nature to those of us who write and edit regularly, but if we’re not careful, agreement errors can creep in. In the examples above, a little more care in making sure the nouns and verbs agree would have elevated these sentences to a more professional level of writing. If you want to avoid the same errors these writers have made, take a look at your nouns and verbs to make sure they agree.
Readers, do you pay attention to noun-verb agreement? Do you find it difficult to keep track of singulars and plurals in long sentences? Let us know in the comments!