ACT English : Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #8 : Compound Subject Errors

Adapted from “Puritanism as a Literary Force” in A Book of Prefaces by H.L. Mencken (1917)

Naturally enough, this moral obsession has given a strong color to American literature. It is true that American literature is set off sharply from all other literatures. In none other will you find so wholesale and ecstatic a sacrifice of ideas, of all the fine gusto of passion and beauty, to notions of what is proper and nice. From the books of grisly sermons that were the first American contribution to letters down to that amazing literature of "inspiration" which now exists, one observes no relaxation of the moral pressure.

In the history of every other literature there have been periods of what might be called moral innocence. In such periods a naive “joie de vivre” (joy of living) has broken through all concepts of duty and responsibility, and the wonder and glory of the universe has been hymned with unashamed zest. The age of Shakespeare comes to mind at once. The violence of the Puritan reactions offers a measure of the pendulums’ wild swing. But in America no such general rising of the blood has ever been seen.

The literature of the nation, even the literature of the minority, has been under harsh and uneducated Puritan restraints from the beginning, and despite a few stealthy efforts at revolt, it shows not the slightest sign of emancipating itself today. The American, try as he will, can never imagine any work of the imagination as wholly without moral content. It must either tend toward the promotion of virtue or, otherwise, be questionable.

Which is the best form of the bolded section?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

responsibility, and the wonder and glory of the universe have been hymned with unashamed zest

responsibility and the wonder and glory of the universe have been hymned with unashamed zest

responsibility and the wonder and glory of the universe has been hymned with unashamed zest

Correct answer:

responsibility, and the wonder and glory of the universe have been hymned with unashamed zest

Explanation:

There are two rules to pay attention to in answering this question. First, notice that there are two independent (though topically related) clauses in this sentence. Therefore, you need a comma before the "and." Now, the second clause has a plural subject: "wonder and glory." These words could be replaced by the pronoun they. That means that the verb needs to match this plural number. The verb "to have" has the form "have" when we have a plural subject like "they." Therefore, the best option is the one that has the comma and the verb form "have."

Example Question #1 : Compound Subject Errors

John and Susan runs to the finish line as fast as possible.

Possible Answers:

running to the finish line

run to the finish line

runs to the finish line

are run

having run to the finish line

Correct answer:

run to the finish line

Explanation:

The underlined portion of the sentence contains a verb error with "runs." "John and Susan," while both singular nouns, are together a plural, and need a plural verb form, instead of the singular "runs." "Run to the finish line" is the correct answer choice.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Lisa, Aaron, and Jason is coming over later than everyone else.

Possible Answers:

Lisa, Aaron,, and Jason is coming

Lisa, Aaron, and Jason coming

Lisa, Aaron, and Jason is to come

Lisa, Aaron, and Jason are coming

Lisa, Aaron, and Jason have come

Correct answer:

Lisa, Aaron, and Jason are coming

Explanation:

The use of the singular verb "is" does not match with the plural subjects of the sentence. The subject and verb must always be in agreement. The correct answer is "Lisa, Aaron, and Jason are coming."

Example Question #31 : Correcting Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices repeats the underlined portion as it is written.

Both Mark and his friend Josh is a type of person called introverts.

Possible Answers:

are a type

is a types

is a type

is one type

are a types

Correct answer:

are a type

Explanation:

The subject of the sentence, "Mark and his friend Josh," is plural. Therefore, the sentence must use a verb that agrees with a plural subject. So, "are" needs to be used instead of "is." In choosing between "are a type" and "are a types," the phrase "a types" is grammatically incorrect because "a" is an indefinite article used with singular nouns, and "types" is a plural noun. Plus, you can see that the sentence is discussing one type of person "called introverts"—there is no discussion provided of any other type of person, so using the plural "types" would not make sense in the sentence's context. So, "are a type" is the correct answer.

Example Question #281 : Correcting Word Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Freud and other advocates of introspective psychology argue that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contribute to the overall health of an individual.

Possible Answers:

argue that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contribute for the overall health

argues that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contributes to the overall health

argues that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contribute to the overall health

argue that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contributes to the overall health

argue that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contribute to the overall health

Correct answer:

argue that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contributes to the overall health

Explanation:

The answer choice "argue that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contributes to the overall health" is correct. It contains the correct number agreement of the verb "contributes" with its subject, "a feeling of connectedness with other human beings."

The answer choices containing "contribute" instead of "contributes" are incorrect. The subject of "contribute" is singular, not plural.

Although the answer choice "argues that a feeling of connectedness with other human beings, along with a positive self-image, contributes to the overall health" correctly contains "contributes," the verb "argues" introduces a number agreement error, as "argues" is singular but being used with a plural subject, "Freud and other advocates of introspective psychology."

Example Question #44 : Correcting Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

Tom, Dick, and Harry all laments the loss of a previous innocence they possessed as children.

Possible Answers:

all lament

all laments

each lament

laments

all lamenting

Correct answer:

all lament

Explanation:

The use of "all" is the key indicator of the correct answer in the sentence. While "Tom, Dick, and Harry" are singular as individuals, they are "all" together sharing their feeling as a plural group; therefore, "all lament" is the correct choice among the answers.

Example Question #131 : Agreement Errors

As the class entered the museum, Ms. Johnson noticed that two of her students had fallen behind the group. After all of the tickets had been secured, she approached the two girls, saying: “what on Earth is causing you to go so slow?” The taller girl, whose name was Ashley, was the first to respond:

“Veronica and I were just discussing something very private. Nobody can hear what her and I are discussing.”

“Well, Ashley, I think that our tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, will be offended by your behavior. You and Veronica should find separate places in the group and you should pay attention to him and me.”

The two girls reluctantly joined the rest of the class. Ms. Johnson looked to see if another student was out of their place, but everything seemed to be in order. The tour guide, Dr. Mitchell, introduced himself to the class: 

“Hello everyone! My name is Dr. Mitchell. I’m so glad that you have all come to the Museum of Natural History today; I think you’ll really enjoy our exhibits, which have been curated with the utmost care. The museum has three distinct types of exhibitions. Permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, and space shows. The permanent exhibition and the space show is always available for viewing, but the temporary exhibition changes seasonally.“

Having finished his introduction, the permanent exhibition was the first thing that Dr. Mitchell showed to the class.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

The permanent exhibition and the space show is always available to being viewed

NO CHANGE

The permanent exhibition and the space show are always available for viewing

The permanent exhibition or the show space are always available for viewing

Correct answer:

The permanent exhibition and the space show are always available for viewing

Explanation:

This compound subject, "the permanent exhibition and the space show," acts as a plural noun because of the word "and." If you replaced "and" with "or," the subject would then function as a singular noun. But because these two subjects are joined by and, they act as a plural noun and therefore need a verb form that agrees with a plural noun. "Are" is therefore the right answer, not "is."

Example Question #1291 : Act English

Passage adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1899) by L. Frank Baum

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which make one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar--except a small hole dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the passage. If the bolded and underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

were making

makes

made

Correct answer:

made

Explanation:

"Made" is the correct choice, because it is in the past tense and agrees with the subject (four walls, a floor and a roof).

Example Question #131 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Select the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the sentence is correct as is, select "NO CHANGE."

The tracks in the snow and the scat on the ground provides evidence that deer have visited the yard.

Possible Answers:

provide evidence that

provides evidence for

were providing evidence that

was providing evidence that

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

provide evidence that

Explanation:

There is no need to change the tense, only the number. The compound subject ("tracks and scat") needs a plural verb, provide.

Example Question #132 : Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

There was a giraffe and a herd of zebras at the zoo.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

It were a giraffe

There was giraffes

It was a giraffe

There were a giraffe 

Correct answer:

There were a giraffe 

Explanation:

The verb precedes the compound subject ("giraffe and a herd of zebras") here, making it tougher to see that you need a plural verb ("were") instead of the singular "was."

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