As a copy editor, subject-verb agreement is one of the most fundamental grammar rules to uphold. However, this rule is not always straightforward, and there are special problems in subject-verb agreement that require careful attention. In this article, we will explore some of these common special problems and how to tackle them.

1. Indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns, such as “everyone,” “someone,” “anyone,” “nobody,” and “everything,” can pose a challenge in subject-verb agreement. These pronouns are singular, but they do not provide a clear antecedent for the subject-verb agreement. For example, it is incorrect to say, “Everyone have their own opinion.” Instead, it should be, “Everyone has their own opinion.”

2. Collectives nouns

Collective nouns, such as “team,” “group,” “family,” and “class,” also require careful attention when it comes to subject-verb agreement. These nouns can be singular or plural, depending on the context. For instance, it is correct to say, “The team is playing well today,” and “The team are all excited for the game.” In the first example, the team is seen as a single unit, while in the second, it is viewed as several individuals.

3. Compound subjects

Compound subjects are two or more subjects in a sentence, connected by conjunctions such as “and,” “or,” and “nor.” These subjects can be singular or plural, and the verb used should agree with the subject that is closest to it. For example, “John and his friends are going to the party,” and “Neither the cat nor the dog is allowed on the couch.”

4. Singular subjects with “or” and “nor”

When a singluar subject is connected to another subject with “or” or “nor,” the verb should agree with the subject closer to it. If both subjects are singular, the verb should also be singular. For example, “Either John or his brother is responsible for the mess.”

5. Titles and names

Titles and names can be tricky when it comes to subject-verb agreement. In general, titles and names that refer to a single person are singular, while those that refer to a group of people are plural. For instance, “The Beatles were an influential band in the 1960s,” and “Dr. Smith is teaching a new course this semester.”

In conclusion, subject-verb agreement is a crucial aspect of grammar, and mastering its special problems can enhance the clarity and correctness of your writing. As a copy editor, it is essential to pay close attention to these issues to ensure your writing is error-free and easily understood. By following these guidelines, you can maintain consistency and accuracy in your writing, and ultimately, enhance its impact and effectiveness.