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Subject, verb agreement (the concord)

Sun, 4 November 2012 20:26
by Heziwell Mhunduru


When we speak about people and things, we usually show (consciously or unconsciously) whether what or who we are talking about is singular or plural. This is an important part since it determines how we should then treat the main verb in the sentence. The general rule is: (You can actually read it as a poem!)
When we have a singular subject
We should have a singular verb
And when we have a plural subject
We should have a plural verb!
Subject identification is imperative. Of great interest are subjects in the third person singular, which can be proper nouns eg Ndeshi/Angula, ordinary nouns like book, cat or titles like The President, The Master of Ceremonies.
This also includes the pronouns he/she/it. It should also be noted that all uncountable nouns are considered singular for example water, money, bread. Care should be taken since some people confuse loaves and slices of bread for bread and end up with queer sentences like “We should buy many breads for the party.”
All indefinite pronouns are also considered singular for example, “nobody, no one, everyone, everybody, somebody, someone, one, anyone, and anybody.” “Neither … nor; either... or” constructions also fall into the same category.  All these types of subjects use singular main verbs which are chiefly recognized by an “–s” or “–es” at the end and when it comes to “Yes-no” types of questions, they use the helping verb “does.”  
Your examiner may ask that you change the following into a question: “He goes home every day.” In this case, we have a singular subject “He” and a singular verb “goes.”
When turning this into a question, the singular verb must donate its “–s” to the word “do” and it must remain without an “–s” hence the question will be: “Does he go home every day?” Do not forget the question mark! If it had been a plural subject it would have had a plural verb without an “-s” to donate, then the main verb in the question must not have an “-s” eg “They go home every day” would be “Do they go home every day?”
The following sentences usually feature especially in orals which then affects the written as well: That girl don’t know anything” which is wrong since “That girl” is a singular subject hence it requires a verb with an “-s”. “The Master of Ceremonies have said it all.” Again, this is a singular subject whose helping verb must have an “-s”; “has”. “We was given the book by our teacher.”
The subject is plural and also belongs to the person that does not require an “-s” so the other variety without an “-s” (were) is the correct one. “The money are not enough.” “Money” is always singular. “The dollars were not enough” will be correct.  “Everybody were there.” Many candidates get cheated by the “every” which implies many hence they treat the word as plural and yet it is singular and the sentence must be “Everybody was there.”
Whenever you get stuck, just remember the poem above. Give it any melody and rhythm you want! More will still be discussed in subsequent articles.