GED Language Arts (RLA) : Subject-Verb Agreement

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Language Usage And Grammar

From Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, III.ii.13-33 (1599)

[This is a speech by Brutus to a crowd at Caesar’s funeral.]

Romans, countrymen, and lovers! Hear me for my

cause, and be silent, that you may hear. Believe me

for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor, that

you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom, and

awake your senses, that you may the better judge.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of

Caesar's, to him I say that Brutus' love to Caesar

was no less than his. If then that friend demand

why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved

Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and

die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead to live

all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;

as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was

valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I

slew him. There is tears for his love, joy for his

fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his

ambition. Who is here so base that would be a

bondman? If any, speak, for him have I offended.

Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If

any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so

vile that will not love his country? If any, speak,

for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

What would be a better way to write the underlined sentence, "There is tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition"?

There might be tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition.

There are tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition.

There was tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition.

There will be tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition.

There shall be tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition.

There are tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition.

Explanation:

Since we have a compound predicate, we really should use a plural verb for our main clause. However, it should stay in the present tense, given the rhetoric of the passage. For example, when we say, "There is a white car," we use "is" because "white car" is singular. However, when we say, "There are five cars," we use "are" because "five cars" is a plural expression. Therefore, use "are" in this sentence, though perhaps for theatrical reasons one might want to use "is." Nevertheless, this is a question of grammar right now!

Example Question #2 : Language Usage And Grammar

Adapted from "Review of Wyandotté, or The Hutted Knoll" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

The most obvious and most unaccountable faults of The Hutted Knoll are those which appertain to the style—to the mere grammatical construction; for, in other and more important particulars of style, Mr. Cooper, of late days, has made a very manifest improvement. His sentences, however, are arranged with an awkwardness so remarkable as to be matter of absolute astonishment, when we consider the education of the author and his long and continual practice with the pen. In minute descriptions of localities, any verbal inaccuracy or confusion becomes a source of vexation and misunderstanding, detracting very much from the pleasure of perusal; and in these inaccuracies Wyandotté abounds. Although, for instance, we carefully read and reread that portion of the narrative that details the situation of the Knoll, and the construction of the buildings and walls about it, we were forced to proceed with the story without any exact or definite impressions upon the subject. Similar difficulties, from similar causes, occur passim throughout the book. For example, at page 41, vol. I:

“The man gazed at the house with a fierce intentness that sometimes glared, in a manner that had got to be, in its ordinary aspects, dull.”  This it is utterly impossible to comprehend. We presume, however, the intention is to say that although the man’s ordinary manner (of gazing) had “got to be” dull, he occasionally gazed with an intentness that glared, and that he did so in the instance in question. The “got to be” is atrocious, the whole sentence no less so.

Here, at page 9, vol. I, is something excessively vague: “Of the latter character is the face of most of that region that lies in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk with the Hudson,” etc. etc. The Mohawk, joining the Hudson, forms two angles, of course—an acute and an obtuse one; and, without farther explanation, it is difficult to say which is intended.

At page 55, vol. I., we read: “The captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths, giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and that were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.”  Here we are tautologically informed that improvement is a consequence of embellishment, and supererogatorily told that the rule holds good only where the embellishment is not accompanied by destruction. Upon the “each orchard were" it is needless to comment.

Poe uses the "Upon the 'each orchard were' it is needless to comment" quote because __________.

it's an obvious subject-verb agreement error since "were" can't agree with "orchard"

Poe cannot understand what Cooper means by the phrase

the word "were" agrees with "blossoms"

the ordering of the sentence is obviously inverted and poorly constructed

it's an obvious subject-verb agreement error since "were" can't agree with "orchard"

Explanation:

The phrase contains an obvious subject-verb agreement error. Cooper apparently feels "were" must agree with "blossoms" and not "orchard."

Example Question #1 : Language Usage And Grammar

Passage adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, getting in; the two other passengers were close behind him, and about to follow. He remained on the step, half in the coach and half out of; they remained in the road below him. They all looked from the coachman to the guard, and from the guard to the coachman, and listened. The coachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

The stillness consequent on the cessation of the rumbling and labouring of the coach, added to the stillness of the night, made it very quiet indeed. The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach, as if it were in a state of agitation. The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The sound of a horse at a gallop came fast and furiously up the hill.

"So-ho!" the guard sang out, as loud as he could roar. "Yo there! Stand! I shall fire!"

The pace was suddenly checked, and, with much splashing and floundering, a man's voice called from the mist, "Is that the Dover mail?"

"Never you mind what it is!" the guard retorted. "What are you?"

"Is that the Dover mail?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"I wants a passenger, if it is."

"What passenger?"

"Mr. Jarvis Lorry."

Our booked passenger showed in a moment that it was his name. The guard, the coachman, and the two other passengers eyed him distrustfully.

"Keep where you are," the guard called to the voice in the mist, "because, if I should make a mistake, it could never be set right in your lifetime. Gentleman of the name of Lorry answer straight."

"What is the matter?" asked the passenger, then, with mildly quavering speech. "Who wants me? Is it Jerry?"

("I don't like Jerry's voice, if it is Jerry," growled the guard to himself. "He's hoarser than suits me, is Jerry.")

"Yes, Mr. Lorry."

"What is the matter?

Correct the bolded and underlined portion of the passage.

"I went a passenger, if it is."

"I wants a passenger, if it is."

"I wanting a passenger, if it is."

"I want a passenger, if it is."

"I is wanting a passenger, if it is."

"I want a passenger, if it is."

Explanation:

It is essential that the subject and verb of a sentence agree. The forms of "want" that agree with "I" are "want," "wanted," and "am wanting." The only answer that matches is, "I want a passenger, if it is."

Example Question #2 : Language Usage And Grammar

Passage adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, getting in; the two other passengers were close behind him, and about to follow. He remained on the step, half in the coach and half out of; they remained in the road below him. They all looked from the coachman to the guard, and from the guard to the coachman, and listened. The coachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

The stillness consequent on the cessation of the rumbling and labouring of the coach, added to the stillness of the night, made it very quiet indeed. The panting of the horses communicated a tremulous motion to the coach, as if it were in a state of agitation. The hearts of the passengers beats loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The sound of a horse at a gallop came fast and furiously up the hill.

"So-ho!" the guard sang out, as loud as he could roar. "Yo there! Stand! I shall fire!"

The pace was suddenly checked, and, with much splashing and floundering, a man's voice called from the mist, "Is that the Dover mail?"

"Never you mind what it is!" the guard retorted. "What are you?"

"Is that the Dover mail?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"I want a passenger, if it is."

"What passenger?"

"Mr. Jarvis Lorry."

Our booked passenger showed in a moment that it was his name. The guard, the coachman, and the two other passengers eyed him distrustfully.

"Keep where you are," the guard called to the voice in the mist, "because, if I should make a mistake, it could never be set right in your lifetime. Gentleman of the name of Lorry answer straight."

"What is the matter?" asked the passenger, then, with mildly quavering speech. "Who wants me? Is it Jerry?"

("I don't like Jerry's voice, if it is Jerry," growled the guard to himself. "He's hoarser than suits me, is Jerry.")

"Yes, Mr. Lorry."

"What is the matter?

Correct the bolded and underlined sentence.

The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people outs of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The hearts of the passengers beated loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people outed of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The hearts of the passengers beats loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation.

Explanation:

"The hearts of the passengers beat loud enough perhaps to be heard; but at any rate, the quiet pause was audibly expressive of people out of breath, and holding the breath, and having the pulses quickened by expectation."

This is the only version of the sentence that has the correct subject/verb agreement for both beat and out. Because "hearts" is plural, "beat" must be the correct conjugation. "People" is also plural which is why "out" is correct.

Example Question #3 : Language Usage And Grammar

Passage adapted from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Gardening, walks, rows on the river, and flower hunts employed the fine days, and for rainy ones, they had house diversions, some old, some new, all more or less original. One of these was the P.C', for as secret societies were the fashion, it was thought proper to have one, and as all of the girls admired Dickens, they called herselves the Pickwick Club. With a few interruptions, they had kept this up for a year, and met every Saturday evening in the big garret, on which occasions the ceremonies were as follows: Three chairs were arranged in a row before a table on which was a lamp, also four white badges, with a big P.C.' in different colors on each, and the weekly newspaper called, The Pickwick Portfolio, to which all contributed something, while Jo, who reveled in pens and ink, was the editor. At seven o'clock, the four members ascended to the clubroom, tied their badges round their heads, and took their seats with great solemnity. Meg, as the eldest, was Samuel Pickwick, Jo, being of a literary turn, Augustus Snodgrass, Beth, because she were round and rosy, Tracy Tupman, and Amy, who was always trying to do what she couldn't, was Nathaniel Winkle. Pickwick, the president, read the paper, which was filled with original tales, poetry, local news, funny advertisements, and hints, in which they good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and short comings. On one occasion, Mr. Pickwick put on a pair of spectacles without any glass, rapped upon the table, hemmed, and having stared hard at Mr. Snodgrass, who was tilting back in his chair, till he arranged himself properly, began to read:

Correct the bolded and underlined section of the passage.

(no change)

going

was

goes

go