Subject-Verb Agreement: Complex Sentences

In general, you should avoid inserting strings of words between the subject and the verb. Your readers expect subjects and verbs to be together; if you separate them, your sentences may be hard to read. Sometimes, though, you will produce such sentences, and then you will want to apply this rule:

In order to maintain subject-verb agreement, pretend that the words between the subject and the verb are not there.

So, this is wrong:

Michael, one of my fraternity brothers, play Ultimate Frisbee daily.

While this is right:

Rachel, one of my sorority sisters, plays Ultimate Frisbee daily.

If you remove the words between the commas, it's clear that you need a singular verb (plays) for the singular noun (Michael or Rachel). However, you might be tempted to write sentences like the first one from time to time. Since the word right before the verb— brothers— is plural, you might accidentally make the verb plural as well. Just remember the rules, and you should be okay.

Subject-Verb Agreement

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