Subject Verb Agreement

When you’re writing a police or corrections report, of course you want to sound professional. So it’s important to understand what “subject verb agreement” means and how to do it in your reports.

Here’s a strategy that instantly shows off your writing skills:  If your sentence contains a prepositional phrase, take a moment or two to make sure your verb is right.

It sounds harder than it really is! Take a look at this sentence:

Accuracy makes you a better writer.

It’s easy to see that “makes” is correct, right?

Now look at this sentence:

Accuracy with details makes you a better writer.

Is makes still correct? Yes: It’s not details that make you a better writer, but accuracy. So: Accuracy with details makes… is correct.

Watch out for prepositions (small words like in, by, for, with, to, of, and so on). They can fool you into focusing your attention on an unimportant word. Don’t be taken in!

One of the officers needs this laptop tonight.  CORRECT (One…needs)

Knowing a couple of shortcuts saves time.  CORRECT (Knowing…makes)

Several boxes of equipment are expected. CORRECT  (Boxes…are)

Another tip: Usually the important word is at the beginning of the sentence. In the previous examples, focus on “one,” “knowing,” and “boxes” to get the verb right.

Are you ready for some practice? Try these. Then scroll down to check your answers.

Misuse of these substances (is, are) punishable by law.

Changes in the procedures often (cause, causes) confusion at first.

His explanation for his actions (don’t, doesn’t) make sense.

Here are the answers:

Misuse of these substances is punishable by law.  CORRECT  (Misuse…is)

Changes in the procedures often cause confusion at first.  CORRECT  (Changes…cause)

His explanation for his actions doesn’t make sense.  CORRECT  (His explanation…doesn’t)

To learn more about subjects, verbs, and prepositional phrases, click here and read about Rule 4.

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