جلسه 1

In this Masterclass, Dan's going to show you three more ways to ensure that your subject nouns and verbs always agree.

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BBC Masterclass

Subject-Verb Agreement 2

I am happy. You are happy. He is happy! The subjects and verbs agree. But what about when the subject is a more complicated noun? Dan explains three more ways to deal with difficult subject-verb agreement.

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Dan

…and I say that a dancing dog is funnier than a cat playing the piano! Well I disagree! But unfortunately for subjects and verbs, according to the rules of grammar, they must agree. So here are three more ways to make sure that your subjects and verbs always agree. Roll tape!

1.  Collective nouns with both singular and plural.

The government is debating the new law.
The government are debating the new law.

Now, government is a collective noun which represents a group of people, like police. But unlike police, which is always plural, government can be singular or plural depending on whether you mean: a group of individuals working together, i.e. they; or a single unit, it. Here are some more examples.

Family, committee, team, crew, jury, public

It’s also worth noting that in a relative clause, we use ‘who’ for the group and ‘which’ for the unit. For example: 

The government, who are in talks right now, are reviewing the law.
The government, which is in talks right now, is reviewing the law.

Do you see the difference?

2: Quantities & amounts, portions and mathematics.

3 minutes is perfect for tea.

Now, despite the fact that 3 is a plural number and minutes is a plural noun, this sentence uses a singular verb; and this is because within the context, three minutes is considered to be one unit of time. This is true for amounts, distances, periods of time, quantities, weights etc. Here are some more examples. 

3 minutes is perfect.
£100 is a fortune!
24 hours is all I need.
26 miles isn't so far!

Be careful with expressions with ONE. Even if the noun is plural, we still use a singular verb. This is easier to remember with something like:
One of my friends has a Ferrari.

But much more difficult when you have a sentence such as:
More than one of us is a secret undercover agent.

But be careful with portions! The noun after ‘of’ dictates the verb. For example.

Half of the cake was eaten.
Half of the cakes were eaten.

Finally, when ‘speaking’ mathematics the verb can be singular or plural and the funny thing is that people often switch inconsistently, even in the same sentence. So, for example: 

Two and three is five.
Two and three are five.
Or Two plus three is five.

3.  Indefinite nouns.

Finally, a quick note about indefinite nouns such as: somebody, anywhere, nothing…and the others. They take singular verbs. For example:

Someone
is at the door!

However, once you’ve referred to somebody using ‘someone’, the pronoun that we use to refer to the same person is ‘they’, which takes a plural verb; and this is because we don’t know if the person is a he or a she. For example:

Someone is at the door. They are knocking loudly!

Did you get it? Of course you got it! Now for more information please log on to bbclearningenglish.com. I’ve been Dan, you’ve been fantastic. See you next time, ok? Hello? What do you mean Titanic was more romantic than Terminator 2? Are you mad? I cried at the end of Terminator 2! No it was the bit with the thumb…

Summary

Verbs always agree with the subject noun in a sentence.

However, there are many types of noun and noun phrase in English, and it can be difficult to know if a particular noun takes a singular verb or a plural verb. Have a look below for some commonly difficult nouns:

1. Collective nouns with both singular and plural.

'The government is debating the new law!' (It...)
'The government are debating the new law!' (They...)

Government is a collective noun which represents a group of people, like police. But unlike police, which is always plural, government can be singular or plural depending on whether you mean a group of individuals working together (e.g. They are debating) or a single unit (e.g. It is debating). Other examples include: family, crew, team, public, jury and committee.

It’s also worth noting that in a relative clause, we use who for the collection of individuals and which for the unit.

'The government, who are in talks now, are reviewing the law.'
'The government, which is in talks now, is reviewing the law.'

2. Quantities & amounts, portions and mathematics.

'3 minutes is perfect for tea.' (It...)

Despite the fact that 3 is a plural number and minutes is a plural noun, the sentence uses a singular verb. In the context of the sentence, 3 minutes is considered to be one unit of time (3 minutes of time = 1 tea) This is true for amounts, distances, periods of time, weights, sums of money, etc.

'More than one of us is a secret undercover agent.' (One...)

Be careful with expressions with 'one'. Even if the noun is plural, we still use a singular verb.

'Half of the cake was eaten.' (Half of it...)
'Half of the cakes were eaten.' (Half of them...)

Be careful with portions! The noun after ‘of’ dictates the verb.

'Two and three is/are five.' (It/ They...)
'Two plus three is five.' (It...)

When speaking mathematics the verb can be singular or plural. It often depends on the phrasing.

3. Indefinite nouns.

'Someone is at the door!' (He or She...) 
'They are knocking loudly.'

Indefinite nouns take a singular verb. However, when referring again to a person indicated with 'someone'we will use the impersonal pronoun theywhich takes a plural verb. This is because someone is not 'he' or 'she' - we don't know. 'They' is gender neutral for one person.

A quiz based on the video "Subject-Verb Agreement 2"

8 Questions

Decide if each sentence (or sentences) is correct or not by examining the subject-verb agreement.

تبریک می گوییم
Excellent! آفرین! نمره شما Bad luck! :
x / y

End of Session

That wraps up this week’s Masterclass. Remember, the choice of noun determines the choice of verb - understand the nouns, and your verb will never disagree. 

Next, join us for News Review, where we'll be discussing a major story in the news, and the language you need to understand it.

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  • Subject-Verb Agreement 2

    The subject noun dictates the verb form. Understand the noun and you will use the right verb:

    1. Collective nouns with both singular and plural.

    'The government is debating the new law!' (It...)
    'The government are debating the new law!' (They...)

    Government is a collective noun and represents a group of people. The choice of singular or plural verb depends on whether you consider the noun to be a group of individuals or a single unit.

     2. Quantities & amounts, portions and mathematics.

    '3 minutes is perfect for tea.' (It...)
    'More than one of us is a secret undercover agent.' (One...)
    'Half of the cake was eaten.' (...of it...)
    'Half of the cakes were eaten.' (...of them...)
    'Two and three is/are five.' (It/ They...)
    'Two plus three is five.' (It...)

    Quantities and amounts, distances, and periods of time (etc.) use a singular verb when they are considered to be a unit.
    Expressions with 'one' use a singular verb.
    Be careful with portions! The noun after‘of’ dictates the verb.
    Spoken mathematics can be singular or plural. It often depends on the phrasing.

    3. Indefinitie nouns.

    'Someone is at the door!' (He or She...) 
    'They are knocking loudly.'

    Indefinite nouns take singular nouns. However, when referring to the same person again, we will use the impersonal pronoun theywhich takes a plural verb.

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