Archive for November 2009

Agreement: Part one

November 30, 2009

Agreement

Subject-Verb AGREEMENT

Agreement means “correspondence.”  Your sentences will express harmony if there is a proper relationship between subjects and verbs.

Lack of Harmony between subject and verb:

Sarah read the newspaper at night.     or…

New York are huge cities.

Harmony between subject and verb:

Many people read the newspaper at night.   or…

New York and Chicago are huge cities.

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Rule for subject-verb agreement: a verb should always agree with its subject in number. That is, a singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject requires a plural verb.

Singular subject and verb: Green ink is often difficult to read.

Plural subject and verb: The desks are highly polished.

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* REMINDER: Unlike nouns, most singular verbs end in s.

For example: The tree sways; trees sway .

In addition, there are irregular verbs such as “to be.”

For example: The tree is green; the trees are green.

* HINT: Remember–sometimes sentences have extra filler and descriptive material which add flavour or texture. However, the essential nutrients of the sentence–the subject and verb–are not found in the filler.

For example:

Yesterday, despite the cold weather, Sandra ate an ice cream cone at the river front.

In its most basic form, the sentence is about Sandra (subject) eating (verb).

Exercise: in the following sentences choose the correct VERB.

1. Where (has/have) the toothpaste gone?

2. Dave and Chris (work/works) at the Academic Writing Centre.

3. Exams (exist/exists) to make our lives miserable.

4. Together, cake and ice cream (make/makes) a wonderful dessert.

5. Trees often (grow/grows) near bodies of water.

There are, however, several cases when you must take special care to achieve agreement !

A) COMPOUND SUBJECTS

A compound subject is formed by two or more words, phrases, or clauses joined by and and or (nor).

i) If the parts of a compound subject are linked by and, the verb is plural.

– The lioness and her cub share a close bond. (1+1 = 2)

ii) Singular subjects linked by or take a singular verb.

– Either Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant was chosen the most

valuable player in the league. (Only one person can be MVP)

iii) However, plural subjects linked by or take a plural verb.

– Neither alligators nor crocodiles make good pets.

(Even if we’re talking only about the alligators, we still have more than one alligator to consider.)

iv) Finally, when a plural subject and a singular subject are joined by or (nor), the verb agrees with the nearer subject.

The heat or predators pose a threat to newborn lion cubs.

(sing.)    (plur.)   (plur.)

B) SUBJECT AND VERB WIDELY SEPARATED

– (Faulty)  The wall, as well as the floors, need repair.

– (Revised) The wall, as well as the floors, needs repair.

– (Faulty)  The attention of the students wander out the window.

– (Revised) The attention of the students wanders out the

window.

In such cases, you must watch out for the plural constructions that might fall between your singular subject and its verb. The words floors and students are plural, but are not subjects in the above sentences. These “in-between” words simply tell about or describe the subject.

Exercise, Part A and B): Circle the correct verb, and underline the subject of the sentence. Explain your choice.

1. Poetry and Fiction (is/are) forms of creative writing.

2. Onions, sad movies, or happiness (make/makes) you cry.

3. The oil company informed me that neither it nor its representative (is/are) responsible for the damage to my car.

4. Margaret Atwood, like many contemporary Canadian authors, (write/writes) novels with political themes.

5. The whole computer package, including disk drive, printer, and programs, (is/are) too expensive for me.

To be continued…

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Review Exercise: Avoiding Fragments, Run on Sentences and Comma Splices

November 23, 2009

REVIEW

How to avoid sentence fragments.

1. Make sure every sentence has a subject and a verb.

2. Do not mistake an “ing” verb for the complete verb.

3. Make sure every sentence has at least one independent clause.

How to avoid run-on sentences and comma splices.

1. Connect two independent clauses with a comma plus one of these coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, yet, so.

2. Separate two independent clauses with a semicolon or period.

3. Change one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause.

EXERCISE:

Rewrite the following paragraph. Change the fragments, run-ons, and comma splices into complete and correct sentences. Add punctuation marks if necessary.

Cats make great pets, you have to be affectionate with them. Not always coming when you call them. Because they are rather independent animals. Many people prefer dogs, you can train them to come, or sit, or fetch a bone. With cats, on the other hand, you have to be willing to let them live their own lives if you attempt to train them you may become discouraged. If you put two cats in the same room you are in for quite a treat. They chase each other, usually all in fun and when one catches the other the real show begins. Often they will cuddle and clean each other sometimes they will fight. The wise pet owner will know when to break up a fight and when to let go since it is only play for the cats. They can be great company if you understand them.

Run on Sentences and Comma splices: Part Two

November 9, 2009

Now that you recognize RUN-ONS and COMMA SPLICES, it is important to know how to correct them.

There are three methods of correction.

METHOD 1: Connect two independent clauses with a comma plus one of these coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, yet, so.

eg.   faulty: Students write papers, professors correct them.

revised: Students write papers, and professors correct them.

faulty: The men cooked dinner, the women mixed the drinks.

revised: The men cooked dinner, so the women mixed the drinks.

EXERCISE:

Change each of the following into a complete and correct sentence by placing a comma plus a conjunction where necessary.

1. It was my mom’s birthday, I called her on the phone.

2. Going out to dinner is fun it is expensive.

3. She is my roommate we split all the bills.

4. We found some shells on the beach they were beautiful.

5. I’m not sure I understand it completely I like it.

METHOD 2: Separate two independent clauses with a semicolon or a period.

eg.   faulty: Students write papers, professors correct them.

revised: Students write papers; professors correct them.

faulty: The men cooked dinner, the women mixed the drinks.

revised: The men cooked dinner. The women mixed the drinks.

In addition, connecting words such as however, therefore, consequently, nevertheless, likewise, besides, also, then, furthermore should be used after the semicolon or period–but not a comma. Because these are strong words, they should be followed by a comma. The word then is an exception; it does not generally take a comma.

eg.   – Students write papers; then professors correct them.

– The men cooked dinner; therefore, the women mixed the drinks.

– The train stops here. However, it is always late.

– I hope the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. Nevertheless,they have a way to go yet.

EXERCISE:

Correct each of the following by placing a semicolon or period between the independent clauses. Add commas where they are needed.

1. I received the most votes therefore I was elected.

2. I want to visit him however I am not feeling well.

3. The play was a comedy, it was very funny.

4. You want your freedom nevertheless you will have to get a

job.

5. She must be out of town otherwise she would be here.

6. First we eat dinner, then we have dessert.

METHOD 3. Change one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause.

This can be done using one of the CONDITIONAL WORDS we discussed earlier.

** Remember, when a dependent clause comes at the beginning of a sentence, it is followed by a comma.

eg.   faulty: Students write papers, professors correct them.

revised: When students write papers, professors correct them.

faulty: The train stops here, it is always late.

revised: The train stops here although it is always late.

EXERCISE

Each of the following contains two independent clauses. Correct the sentence by making one of them into a dependent clause.

1. We went to the museum, Bob went to the ball game.

2. You are my sister I love you.

3. I don’t like crowds, I enjoy going to the beach.

4. The temperature dropped it started to rain.

5. I get my change, I look for a penny.

6. You were gone the plumber came.