Don't Let Errors Ruin Your Submissions Pt 6, Subject Agreement
Welcome to the 6th post of Don't Let Errors Ruin Your Submissions!
You might think your manuscript's fascinating story potential should rise above any typos and poor grammar, but the truth is agents and publishers receive an onslaught of submissions. They give most of these submissions a few seconds before deciding whether to pass or keep reading. That means any red flags can prompt a rejection.
I say "can" because there will always be the exception to the rule. Counting on being the exception to the rule is NOT a good idea. You need to clean up your submission.
Don't let errors ruin your submission's chances!
This week, we're taking a look at Rules 7 & 8 which looks at subject agreement with verbs, pronouns, appositives, or participial phrases.
7. Make the subject and verb agree with each other not with a word that comes between them.
8. Be sure that a pronoun, a participial phrase, or an appositive refers clearly to the proper subject.
Odds are you know these rules but might not be familiar with the grammar terms, so let's take a moment to define the terms:
- Subject: the person, place, or thing that the sentence is about
- Verb: a word conveying an action taken by the subject or the effect of the action or a state of beng
- Pronoun: a word that takes the place of a noun to avoid repetition, such as I, her, she, they, etc.
- Participial Phrase: a phrase that modifies and gives more information about a noun, such as "running to catch up, she tripped" where "running to catch up" give more information about "she"
- Appositive: a phrase that renames the noun, such as "the manager, Amber," where "Amber" renames the manager
Subject-Verb Agreement (Rule 7)The verb in a sentence needs to match the intended number of the subject. If the noun is singular, the verb is singular. If the noun is plural, the verb is plural.
With many regular verbs, the singular form of the verb has an -s or -es ending. The plural form of the verb does not. Yes, it is exactly opposite of the rules for plural forms of nouns.
To do this properly, we need to understand verb conjugation.
Verb ConjugationWe conjugate a verb by determining which form of the verb goes with the following subjects:
- I (singular noun)
- He/she/it (singular noun)
- They/we/you (plural noun)
Regular VerbsDance is an example of a regular verb. Regular verbs, when conjugated, still contain a form (or main root) of the original verb within the word.
- I dance (the verb does not have an –s added to the end of the noun when the subject
- is I)
- He/she/it dances
- They/we/you dance
Irregular VerbsMost writers run into issues with Irregular Verbs. An irregular verb does not contain the main root of the verb within its conjugation forms.
Examples of irregular verbs include "to be" and "to have." The present and past tense conjugations of to be are:
- I am
- He/she/it is
- They/we/you are
- I was
- He/she/it was
- They/we/you were
The Most Common Mistake
- The cart, as well as its contents, were gone. (incorrect)
- The cart, as well as its contents, was gone. (correct)
Clear Reference to Subject (Rule 8)
- Jane went to the store, and Bob went with her. They left just a few minutes ago.
- I tried to see the full moon tonight, but it was hidden by clouds.
- Running to catch up, the pothole tripped her up. (Incorrect)
- Running to catch up, she tripped over a pothole. (Correct)
- The manager, Amber, is going to speak to us today.
- My sister Jillian can't eat peanuts.
If you've missed the previous 5 posts in this series, never fear!
Part 1: an overview of the top 11 grammar rules to follow
Part 2: a look at compound sentences and punctuation
Part 3: an exploration of proper comma usage
Part 4: an overview of the proper use of apostrophes to indicate possessive nouns
Part 5: an explanation of dialogue punctuation
Next week, we'll look at rule 9 that discusses how to properly use lists in your writing. Yes, that does mean we'll tackle the oxford comma among other things.
Questions? Leave them in the comments!