SAT Essay Writing and Language
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Subject-Verb Agreement Mini Lesson

I’m sure you know that we speak differently from how we write. Generally, speaking is casual and writing is more formal. If you really listened to a conversation between two people (I’m not suggesting eavesdropping), you would probably notice numerous errors in subject-verb agreement, but that’s okay!  The SAT police aren’t grading conversations, but they will be grading your ability to recognize errors in writing. Today, the focus of this mini lesson is on subject-verb agreement when using singular indefinite pronouns. By the way, you do not need to know that the words in this group are called indefinite pronouns, but you do need to be able to recognize them and use them correctly. Ready? Here we go.  

Pronouns vs. Indefinite Pronouns

As you know, pronouns are small words that replace specific nouns in a sentence.  

Example:

Victor thinks that unicorns are real.

He thinks that unicorns are real.

  • The pronoun “He” replaced “Victor,” which is a specific noun in the sentence.  

Another Example:

The unicorn does not believe in Victor.

It does not believe in Victor.

  • The pronoun “It” replaced “unicorn,” which is a specific noun in the sentence.

Indefinite pronouns are used when what is being replaced is not anything or anyone specific. These are the singular indefinite pronouns and should be memorized:

anybody, anyone, each, either/or, everybody, everyone, neither/nor, no one, nobody,

none, one, somebody, someone

***Since these are singular indefinite pronouns, you must use a singular verb to have subject-verb agreement.***

Example:

Everybody attends the assembly.  

  • “Everybody” is an indefinite pronoun, since it is not referring to a specific noun.  
  • “Everybody” is singular and needs the singular verb “attends.”
  • If you’re not sure, try testing the sentence with a singular pronoun and a plural pronoun to determine the correct verb.

She attends the assembly. OR

They attend the assembly.

  • Since you know that “everybody” is singular, it would use the same verb tense as “she” because “she” is also singular. Choose the singular verb tense “attends.”
  • I also tested the sentence with the pronoun “they,” which is plural. The plural verb tense is “attend,” which is further confirmation that we need the singular verb tense “attends.”

More examples:

None of my friends listens to their parents.

  • “None” is singular and needs the singular verb “listens.”
  • The phrase “of my friends” adds a bit of confusion, so try trimming the sentence.

None of my friends listens to their parents.

  • Now, try testing the sentence with a singular pronoun and a plural pronoun.

He listens.

They listen.

  • “He” and “listens” are in agreement since they are both singular.  
  • “None” and “listens” are in agreement since they are both singular, too.

 

Neither knows how to use text message.

  • “Neither” is singular and needs the singular verb “knows.”

When talking about her children, my mom always said, “Each has a special talent.”

  • “Each” is singular and needs the singular verb “has.”

Nobody writes thank you notes anymore.  

  • “Nobody” is singular and needs the singular verb “writes.”

 

Okay, now what?  Here are your action steps:

  1. Memorize the list of singular indefinite pronouns.
  2. Practice using singular indefinite pronouns by writing 5 original sentences making sure you use singular verbs.
  3. Double check your subject-verb agreement by trimming the sentence and/or testing the sentence with a singular pronoun and a plural pronoun.   

 

I hope you found this mini lesson on subject-verb agreement helpful. As always, thanks for visiting The Test Prep Spot and for reading this blog post. If you have some thoughts to share, I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments section.

 



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