Friday, August 20, 2010

Subject–Verb Agreement

The subheading above, in The New Paper (20 August 2010), contains a subject–verb agreement error.  Since the subject is the noun phrase frequency of cases, whose head is the singular noun frequency, the following verb should be singular prompts and not plural prompt.

It is worth remembering that, even though we call it ‘subject–verb agreement’, the agreement is between the verb and the head of the subject noun phrase (if it is complex), and not with the noun nearest to it (so the verb doesn’t agree with cases).

A similar problem is seen here (same newspaper, same day).  The subject is the non-finite clause locating the best places ... for effective exposure.  Like all non-finite clauses functioning as subjects, it should be treated as singular, hence ... is all in a day’s work.


fennielyn said...

I am still reeling from your eerily keen observance of the mistakes that so many other lazy, forgiving eyes missed (including mine) and can't thank you enough for taking the time to start this little space of revelation. Be sure that I'll drop by often and I believe that I'm not the only one out there driven slack-jawed by your amazing prowess for detail. ;)

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks! :-)

Occupational hazard, I guess. I assure you it's not always a good thing -- very often I find I cannot read something without being distracted by the grammatical features of a text.

I suppose I've been doing this for such a long time that these kinds of errors just jump out at me!