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Subject Verb Agreement Sat Examples For Essays

Before you start, you may want to read the Writing Essentials Subject-Verb Agreement post. If you feel you ‘got it’, then have a go at these five questions. They are not easy, so good luck!

 

1. The number of Americans living in rural areas have decreased (A) to unprecedented levels, with (B)most farmers saying that their days (C)in the country are numbered.  D) No Error. (E)

 

2. According to (A) a recent study, an increasing number of people in their 30’s choose (B) to remain single, a finding that (C), despite reports to the contrary (D),  suggest (E) that fewer (F) people plan to have children. No Error. (G)

 

3. Students, many of whom (A) find themselves in nearly insurmountable debt, are compromising (B) on their career ideals, taking jobs that, while (C) in many cases highly lucrative, are (D) often hardly inspiring. No Error. (E)

 

4. Beaming satellite images from (A) Jupiter, a planet notoriously difficult (B) to photograph, was (C) a remarkable feat for a team of scientists, who, for the first time ever, (D) were (E) able to depict parts of the planet’s atmosphere that were (F)  hitherto (G) unknown. No Error. (H)

 

5. A veritable kaleidoscope of sea life, the seabed has been (A) constantly changing, affording (B) marine biologists with (C) a view into (D) a world both unique and (E) awe-inspiring.  No Error. (F)

 

Answers:

1. A (number has decreased)

2. E (suggests)

3. E (No Error)

4. E (team…was)

5. C (with is unnecessary)

 

If you got all five of those correct, then you are an SAT grammar beast. Way to go!

About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 10 million views. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog! You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!


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You know how you have to conjugate the verb to match the subject in foreign languages? We have the same thing in English, and it can get tricky even though the simple cases seem so natural and obvious to us:

Example 1
Wrong:You is smart.
Correct:You are smart.
Example 2
Wrong:Everyday the alarm clock goes off and we wakes up to confront our lives.
Correct:Everyday the alarm clock goes off and we wake up to confront our lives.

The subject is a noun (person, place, or thing) that is the “doer” or “main feature” in the sentence. A verb is an action word. Think about the simple sentences above and how awkward it would be to have verbs that don’t agree with the subject. You don’t even have to know what the subject and verb of each sentence is to know that it’s awkward. Now the SAT won’t make it that easy on you; they’ll intentionally try to trick your ear. Let’s do an example:

Investigations into the scandal (shows/show) a lot more than we want to know.

To pick the right verb, we must first find the subject. Let’s start by applying what we learned in a previous chapter and cross out the prepositional phrases:

Investigations (shows/show) a lot more than we want to know.

What’s left is the subject—investigations! Now the second step is to ask yourself whether investigations is singular or plural. Well, it’s plural because of the s, meaning there’s more than one. Therefore, we need the plural verb show. And that’s the whole process! Cross out the prepositional phrases and you’ll be able to pick the subject from the nouns that are left. It’s usually the remaining noun closest to the verb.

If you’re ever unsure of whether a verb such as show is singular or plural, test it by putting he and they in front and then asking yourself which sounds more correct:

He show… OR They show…

Hopefully, They show… sounds more correct to you, which means show is the plural form (since they is obviously plural).

Let’s try some more difficult ones. Note that in the following example, we can cross out both a prepositional phrase and a comma phrase.

Example 3
Question:Films by Miyazaki and Itami, including Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, (excites/excite) the imagination.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
Films , , (excites/excite) the imagination.
Step 2:What is the subject? Films
Step 3:Is Films singular or plural? Plural.
Answer:Films by Miyazaki and Itami, including Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, excite the imagination.
Example 4
Question:Her jewelry, in addition to her pokemon cards, (was/were) stolen by the robber.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
Her jewelry, , (was/were) stolen .
Step 2:What is the subject? Her jewelry
Step 3:Is Her jewelry singular or plural? Singular.
Answer:Her jewelry, in addition to her pokemon cards, was stolen by the robber.

You might think that the verb should be plural because the sentence mentions both jewelry and cards, but because of the comma phrase, the subject is just the jewelry.

Example 5
Question:Beside the bins, where one could smell the stench of rotten eggs, (was/were) a pack of philosophy majors gathering cans for recycling.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
, , (was/were) a pack
Step 2:What is the subject? a pack
Step 3:Is a pack singular or plural? Singular.
Answer:Beside the bins, where one could smell the stench of rotten eggs, was a pack of philosophy majors gathering cans for recycling.

Again, make sure you can identify that was is singular whereas were is plural. Everyone uses the correct form in simple conversation, but some students have trouble identifying the correct form in a grammar test setting.

Example 6
Question:Inside heaven’s kingdom (rests/rest) Charlie and his angels.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
(rests/rest) Charlie and his angels.
Step 2:What is the subject? Charlie and his angels
Step 3:Is Charlie and his angels singular or plural? Plural.
Answer:Inside heaven’s kingdom rest Charlie and his angels.
Example 7
Question:There (is/are) many other examples to support my point.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
There aren’t any to cross out. Note that to support is not a prepositional phrase because it doesn’t end in a noun. It’s an infinitive.
Step 2:What is the subject? many other examples
Step 3:Is many other examples singular or plural? Plural.
Answer:There are many other examples to support my point.

These last three examples show that the subject can appear after the verb, something the SAT loves to do to trip students up.

Another question variation you’ll come across deals with helping verbs, which are necessary to form certain tenses. Examples of helping verbs are bolded below:

has seen
was forgotten
is watching
have been

When you see these verb forms, it is the helping verb that must agree with the subject.

Example 8
Question:The few ideas that I’ve come up with last night (has/have) given my team enough to work with.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
The few ideas (has/have) given my team enough to work with.
Step 2:What is the subject? The few ideas
Step 3:Is The few ideas singular or plural? Plural.
Correct:The few ideas that I’ve come up with last night have given my team enough to work with.
Example 9
Question:The forks and knives are in the kitchen, and the jar with the thai peanut sauce (has/have) been sitting in the refrigerator.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
The forks and knives are in the kitchen, and the jar (has/have) been sitting in the refrigerator.
Step 2:What is the subject? the jar
Step 3:Is the jar singular or plural? Singular.
Answer:The forks and knives are in the kitchen, and the jar with the thai peanut sauce has been sitting in the refrigerator.
Example 10
Question:The players on our all-star tennis team (is/are) taken on luxury cruises every year.
Step 1:Cross out the prepositional phrases/comma phrases/relative clauses:
The players (is/are) taken on luxury cruises every year.
Step 2:What is the subject? The players
Step 3:Is The players singular or plural? Plural.
Answer:The players on our all-star tennis team are taken on luxury cruises every year.

Another question variation you might see is one in which the verb is in a phrase or clause you would normally cross out. For example,

I visited my aunt, who (is/are) a panda caretaker, earlier today.

Note that the underlined portion is a comma phrase. To find the subject if the verb is located in a phrase or clause like the one above, just ask yourself what it’s describing. In this case, the phrase is obviously describing my aunt, which is singular. Therefore, we need the singular verb is.

I visited my aunt, who is a panda caretaker, earlier today.

Example 11
Question:Where are the cookies that (was/were) in the cookie jar?
Answer:Where are the cookies that were in the cookie jar?

In Example 11, we have a relative clause that describes cookies, which is plural.

Example 12
Question:I have no interest in luxury products, which (caters/cater) only to the wealthy.
Answer:I have no interest in luxury products, which cater only to the wealthy.

Now let’s walk through a really tricky example that combines everything we’ve learned so far in this chapter:

Mastery of magic tricks that truly (surprises/surprise) the audience (requires/require) lots of time.

Here, we have to figure out the subjects for two verbs. Cross out the prepositional phrases and relative clause:

Mastery (requires/require) lots .

Now it’s easy to see that mastery is the main subject of the sentence. Mastery is singular so we need the singular verb requires. After all, it’s the mastery that requires a lot of time. But let’s get back to the first verb, which is crossed out within the relative clause, and ask ourselves what that relative clause is describing. What is truly surprising the audience? Magic tricks! Magic tricks is plural so we need the plural verb surprise.

Mastery of magic tricks that truly surprise the audience requires lots of time.

Now, a few more rules you should know:

Example 13
Question:The Simpsons (is/are) the longest running American sitcom.
Answer:The Simpsonsis the longest running American sitcom.
Rule:Names of books, TV shows, bands, and movies are all singular.
Example 14
Question:Charles and Kate (was/were) at the ball last night.
Answer:Charles and Kate were at the ball last night.
Rule:Subjects joined by and are always plural.
Example 15
Question:Everybody (loves/love) Raymond.
Answer:Everybody loves Raymond.
Rule:Everybody, everything, every, anybody, anyone, no one are all singular subjects.
Example 16
Questions:Each of the candidates (has/have) two minutes to respond.
Neither of the candidates (wants/want) to respond.
Answers:Each of the candidates has two minutes to respond.
Neither of the candidates wants to respond.
Rule:Each, neither, and either are all singular subjects.

Before we go to the exercises, you probably have quite a few grammar rules swirling around in your head. Let’s go over a few common errors that students make when they start thinking about subjects and verbs. Take a look at the following sentence:

He likes to sway to R&B music instead of rocking to AC/DC.

On the SAT, you must be able to identify which words are verbs before you can check for their subjects. Some students mistakenly think that to sway and rocking are verbs in that sentence. However, to sway is called an infinitive (to be, to hate, to run,…) and rocking is called a gerund (running, cooking, exploding,…). You’ve probably heard of infinitives in French or Spanish class, where it’s the root form of a verb before you conjugate it. It’s the same in English. Infinitives and gerunds are not verbs so there’s no need to check for subject-verb agreement. The only actual verb in this example is likes. Again, gerunds and infinitives are never verbs. Don’t waste time checking for their subjects.

Lastly, the SAT loves to throw in more than one verb in the same sentence. That way, one of the verbs can be buried deeper into the sentence to fool your ear. In these questions, split the sentence into two and make sure both verbs agree.

Example 17
Wrong:John and Harry studied computer science and was recruited by Google to develop new services.
Sentence 1:John and Harry studied computer science. Correct.
Sentence 2:John and Harry was recruited by Google to develop new services. Wrong.
Correct:John and Harry studied computer science and were recruited by Google to develop new services.
Example 18
Wrong:Poisonous traps that attracts and then kills off rats are spread throughout this office.
Sentence 1:Poisonous traps that attracts rats are spread throughout this office. Wrong.
Sentence 2:Poisonous traps that then kills off rats are spread throughout this office. Wrong.
Correct:Poisonous traps that attract and then kill off rats are spread throughout this office.
Example 19
Wrong:I was walking down the street and were chatting with my friend about his day.
Sentence 1:I was walking down the street. Correct.
Sentence 2:I were chatting with my friend about his day. Wrong.
Correct:I was walking down the street and (was) chatting with my friend about his day.

In Example 19, the second was is unnecessary because the first was serves as a helping verb for both walking and chatting. If we stripped out all the details of the sentence, it would read, I was walking and chatting…, which is a grammatically fine sentence.

 
 
 

Fix the subject-verb agreement error. Some may be correct.
  1. New economic policy in a few states have brought wealth to some industries, such as manufacturing, but most industries remain unaffected.
  2. The scientists trying to replicate the results of the experiment realized that the speed of explosive chemical reactions were too fast to accurately measure.
  3. The paper formed from organically grown trees tends to be more sturdy than that made from trees in the wilderness.
  4. Above the desk in his bedroom hangs shiny silver medals and a large gold trophy, each adorned with a small plaque and signed by the young athlete.
  5. At any given moment, there is likely to be more than a million websites being visited.

Want more questions? Our SAT Writing Advanced Guide and Workbook contains over 500 additional practice questions (grouped by topic) and 3 practice tests.
 
 
 

  1. New economic policy in a few states has brought wealth to some industries, such as manufacturing, but most industries remain unaffected.
  2. The scientists trying to replicate the results of the experiment realized that the speed of explosive chemical reactions was too fast to accurately measure.
  3. The paper formed from organically grown trees tends to be more sturdy than that made from trees in the wilderness. CORRECT
  4. Above the desk in his bedroom hang shiny silver medals and a large gold trophy, each adorned with a small plaque and signed by the young athlete.
  5. At any given moment, there are likely to be more than a million websites being visited.

 
 
 

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