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Unit 11: Lesson 3

Writing: Grammar

Writing: Subject-Verb Agreement — Video Lesson

David walks through a Subject-Verb Agreement question on the SAT Writing and Language test. Created by David Rheinstrom.

Video transcript

- [Instructor] We're taking a look at question 11 here, which is from a passage about electronic medical records. The best way to address these concerns about accuracy and privacy are not to avoid adopting electronic health record systems but rather to implement them effectively. The benefits of fully transitioning from paper to electronic health records far outweigh any perceived disadvantages. Okay, so our choices are, this underlined thing which is the no change option are, and that's choice A. Choice B is have been. Choice C is had been, and choice D is is. And whenever I see a bunch of different verb forms here in the choices, I know that one of the things I'm gonna have to check for is subject verb agreement. We're looking for agreement in both tense and number. Tense is when something happened. Is it happening now? Did it happen in the past? And number is about whether or not the subject of the sentence is singular or plural. Are we talking about one thing or more than one thing? And subject verb agreement questions will show up between one and three times on test day. Now, real quick, let's review what's the subject of a sentence. It's not just what the sentence is about. It's a specific function in grammar. So the subject of a sentence is the noun in the sentence that performs the main verb. So in the sentence, Balthasar eats a sandwich, we have two nouns, right? We've got Balthasar and we've got sandwich, but only one noun is performing the main verb, which is eats. Who's doing the eating? Balthasar is, because Balthasar is doing the main verb, we know Balthasar is the subject of the sentence. Balthasar is also just one person. So we know that Balthasar matches up with eats, the single form of the verb. Balthasar eat a sandwich would be wrong. A side note here, in English plural nouns gain an s but plural verbs lose an s. Compare the cat sleeps to the cats sleep. This is only true in present tense so it won't apply all the time but it's something to consider. Now we have a top tip for approaching questions like these and that is get rid of extra words. If there's a lot of stuff between the subject and the verb in your sentence, just cross it out. So in the sentence, Hobbs State Park at over 12,000 acres are by far the largest state park in Arkansas. What's the subject? What's doing the main action of the sentence? All right, well, I guess Hobbs State Park, right, is doing the main action of the sentence. And what's the verb it's doing? The verb it's doing is are. All this stuff in the middle, this stuff between the commas, we can toss it, cross it off for the purposes of evaluating the sentence so we can get that subject right next to that verb and then ask yourself, does this sound right? Is Hobbs State Park singular or plural? Park is singular. Are is plural. Hobbs State Park are doesn't sound right. It doesn't match up. So I would wanna change it to is, Hobbs State Park is by far the largest state park in Arkansas. Let's go back to the question. Let me pause right here for a second to give you an opportunity to do this question on your own. Okay, let's do it. Now the first thing I wanna do is apply that top tip and get rid of extra words between the subject and the verb. So what is the subject? The best way to address the concerns about accuracy and privacy are not to, okay. Are, is our main verb. And this prepositional phrase to address the concerns about accuracy and privacy is in the way it modifies way, the best way to do this are not to do this but rather to do that, and simplifying the sentence that way reveals that our subject is way and our main verb is are. The best way are, and that's weird. Way is singular and we want the singular form of a verb. So is not are, right. So that means D is probably our answer, but let's just cross out the plural options and then make sure, because choice C had been good, agree with a singular subject. They had been, she had been, we had been. Let's say goodbye to choice a, which is the word are. And choice B have been, because have been is plural in the way that are is plural. So that takes care of number agreement. And now we're looking at tense agreements, should we choose C or D, past tense or present tense? Well, the best way to look for tense alignment is to look for other verbs in the rest of the paragraph and then find out their tenses. So let's read into the next sentence. The benefits of fully transitioning from paper to electronic health records far outweigh any perceived disadvantages. Okay, so the subject is benefits and the verb is outweigh. So benefits outweigh, that's in the present tense. It's a general statement of fact. So let's carry that back to our choices. We're looking for a present tense option and that leaves only D. C is in past tense and that means it doesn't match. So D is our answer. Let's review our strategy. First, find the subject of the sentence and place it right next to the verb. What's the word that is performing the main action? That's our subject. Then match number. Does the subject agree in number with the verb? If the subject is singular, then it needs a singular form of the verb. If the subject is plural, then it needs a plural form of that verb. Finally, keep verb tense consistent and logical. For example, if the verbs in the paragraph are in the past tense, you'll need a good logical reason to use a verb in any other tense. It's usually better to keep them all in the same tense. Once you determine what the subject is, questions like these fall into place. Good luck out there. You've got this.