Tag Archives: subject-verb agreement

Is it “There is” or “There are”?

You need to be extra careful with sentences that begin with there is or there are. Which one should you use – and how can you be sure you’re right? And what about there go and there goes?

There’s a trick! All you have to do is to reverse the sentence (switch it around). For example, “There is” becomes “is there.” Luckily this is easy to do, making it simple to get the verb right.

Take a look at these examples. The reverse is in brackets:

There is a reason assaults are down in that neighborhood. [Think: a reason is there = there is a reason]  CORRECT

There go two fine officers. [Think: two fine officers go there = there go two fine officers]  CORRECT

Try these:

There was/were two messages for you this morning.

Here is/are the receipt you were looking for.

There go/goes my chance for a transfer.

Here are the correct answers:

There were two messages for you this morning. [Think: two messages were there]  CORRECT

Here is the receipt you were looking for. [Think: the receipt is here]  CORRECT

There goes my chance for a transfer. [Think: my chance goes there]  CORRECT

You can download a free handout about Subject-Verb Agreement at this link: http://bit.ly/SubVerbAgreement

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Either Or Sentences in Reports

“Either or” sentences like this one occasionally show up in criminal justice reports, raising questions about the correct verb:

Malik told me either the employees or their boss was/were involved in the theft.

Here’s how to find the correct verb in “either or” sentences : Skip over the “either” part and look only at the “or” part:

 Malik told me either the employees or their boss was/were involved in the theft.

“Their boss was” sounds better, so here’s the corrected sentence:

Malik told me either the employees or their boss was involved in the theft.  CORRECT

To learn more, click here and read Rule 3.

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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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