Case agreement in essays

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1. Case agreement in essays requires correct grammar. It means that if the subject of a sentence is singular, then the verb form must be singular as well.

Similarly, if the subject of the statement is plural, the verb form must be expressed in the plural as well.

  • The shop [singular] opens at nine o’clock.
  • On Thursdays the shops [plural] open late.

2. Sometimes confusion occurs because a statement begins in the
singular but then drifts into the plural:

It can be argued that a person has the right to know when they are dying.

3.The easiest solution to this problem is to make the subject
plural and its verb plural as well:

It can be argued that people have the right to know when they are dying.

4. Sometimes a singular noun is used to denote a plural or a collective thing – such as the government or parliament. Either the singular or the plural verb form may be used – but the important thing is to be consistent.

The government prefers to let matters rest, but events may make them change their minds.

The government prefers to let matters rest, but events may make it change its mind.

The government prefer to let matters rest, but events may make them change their minds.

5. Indefinite pronouns such as everybody and anyone can make writing with correct subject-verb agreement tricky.

6. You should treat indefinite pronouns as singular nouns that take singular verbs. Keep in mind that every and any are singular concepts.

Every human being is responsible for his actions.

7. If you wish to avoid using the masculine pronoun his or the very clumsy construction his or her – there is a simple solution to the problem. Put the expression into the plural form:

All human beings are responsible for their own actions.

© Roy Johnson 2003

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