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Teacher Tips and Answers

Editing Definition Essays

You've completed large-scale improvements, so now you can focus your attention on each specific detail of your essay. The following activities will help you ensure subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement. You'll also find a checklist to help you catch any errors in punctuation, capitalization, spelling, usage, and grammar.

Editing for Subject-Verb Agreement

Subjects and verbs must agree. Follow these rules to ensure subject-verb agreement:

  1. A singular subject needs a singular verb, and a plural subject needs a plural verb. Usually, plural nouns end in s, and plural verbs do not: terms have and term has. Watch for one s between the noun and verb.

    Merriam-Webster offers them as synonyms for each other, but each has a slightly different focus. (singular subjects and verbs)

    Now that both terms have shucked many of their negative connotations, they are used by people about all kinds of non-academic, non-techie subjects. (plural subjects and verbs)

  2. A compound subject joined by and is always plural.

    In the days of traveling circuses, the lion tamer, trapeze artist, and tightrope walker were royalty. (plural subject and verb)

  3. When a compound subject is joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the subject closest to it.

    Neither the water boy nor the geek was considered a skilled carney. (singular final subject and verb)

  4. Some indefinite pronouns are always singular (each, either, neither, one, everybody, another, anybody, everyone, nobody, everything, somebody, someone) and others are always plural (both, few, many, several).

    Everyone wants a geek to fix a computer. Few choose a jock.

  5. Some indefinite pronouns (all, any, most, none, some) change depending on the object of the preposition that follows them.

    All of the sideshow acts are top notch. All of the bigtop is fireproof.

  6. Don't be fooled when other nouns come between the subject and verb. Make sure the true subject and verb agree.

    A nerd, whether devoted to books or computers or sports, is a serious expert in the subject.

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