Sunday, August 02, 2009

Subject–Verb Agreement

Memories of trainee’s injury still haunts coach (The New Paper, 24 July 2009) is wrong; make it: Memories of trainee’s injury still haunt coach.

In Standard English, when we have a complex noun phrase as subject, the following verb agrees with the head noun, not the noun closest to it — that’s why we need the plural verb haunt to agree with the plural memories, not the singular injury.

The head noun is often (but not always) the most important noun in the noun phrase: if we were to choose only one noun to tell us what the noun phrase is about, we’d pick memories, not injury (i.e. memories haunt him).

6 comments:

shail2chouhan said...

nice information share
great work

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Should I use 'has been' or 'have been' for the following sentence?

Since I started my reading regime, my English grades _______ improving.

Do I look at 'English grades' as a particular subject and use 'has been' or 'grades' as plural and use 'have been'?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

The answer is 'have been'. It all depends on the head noun again -- it's 'grades', hence 'My grades have been improving'.

'English grades' isn't a particular subject. Perhaps English is, so you'd say 'My English has been improving'.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. Is/ Are "memories" countable?

Moi~

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Yes, in fact in this sense it is always plural, e.g. "I have fond memories of this place".