SAT Essay Writing and Language
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Trim That Sentence!

This mini-lesson is designed to teach you how to trim a sentence to clearly “see” the subject and verb. There are more considerations when dealing with subject-verb-agreement, but let’s focus on the skill of trimming a sentence today. I hope you find this helpful.  


In a sentence, the subject and verb must be in agreement in number and tense.


Number - subjects can be singular (one) or plural (more than one)

Tense - place in time or when the action happened


To determine the correct tense, first determine if the subject is singular or plural.  

To find the subject and verb, it helps to trim the sentence of nonessential phrases.


Trim It!


Example 1:

My friend, Carly, like to eat potato chips and onion dip before going out on a date.  


The subject is “My friend” and the verb phrase is “like to eat.”  

The trimmed sentence is “My friend like to eat.” This doesn’t sound right, because it’s not right!  

“My friend” is singular.

“Like to eat” is plural.  Change “like” to “likes” to correct the sentence.  


Written correctly, the sentence should be:

My friend, Carly, likes to eat potato chips and onion dip before going out on a date.  


Example 2:

The group of students are sitting in the same room texting each other instead of talking.  


The subject is “The group” and the verb phrase is “are sitting.”

The trimmed sentence is “The group are sitting.” Again, this does not sound right.  

“The group” is singular. This is tricky because “of students” describes the group, but this is not the subject.  

“Are sitting” is plural. Change “are” to “is” to correct the sentence.


Written correctly, the sentence should be:

The group of students is sitting in the same room texting each other instead of talking.  


Example 3:

Zach and Mike, but not Jake and Tim, thinks I should put hot sauce on my eggs.  


The compound subject is “Zach and Mike” and the verb is “thinks.”

The trimmed sentence is “Zach and Mike thinks.”  How does it sound?  Not right.

“Zach and Mike” is plural.  

“Thinks” is singular. Change “thinks” to “think” to correct the sentence.

Zach and Mike, but not Jake and Tim, think I should put hot sauce on my eggs.


I hope you found this mini-lesson helpful. You can use this trick with all sentences, no matter how long or complicated they seem! Keep trimming sentences in mind when you are trying to identify grammatical errors. This skill can make a complex sentence look much less intimidating.


Please, let me know if this lesson was useful. You can leave a comment below or send me an e-mail at testprepspot@gmail.com. As always, thanks for reading and visiting the Test Prep Spot!    



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