Monday, September 20, 2010

SubjectVerb Agreement

The verb were is wrong (Straits Times, 17 September 2010). 

Since the noun phrase the Singapore universities’ drop in rankings has a singular head noun drop, it needs to be followed by the singular verb was.
The Young

The headline above (Straits Times Online, 13 September 2010) contains a subject–verb agreement error; make it S’pore young worry MM.

The relevant sense of young here is ‘young people considered as a group’, hence it is equivalent to (one of the senses of) youth and is a collective noun.

How could we find out the grammatical properties of a noun, or indeed of any other grammatical category?  Here’s where a good learner’s dictionary comes in handy.  The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, for example, marks young as ‘[pl.]’, meaning that it is grammatically plural; accordingly, it should be followed by a plural verb.