Agreements in Grammar: A Guide to Avoiding Common Mistakes
As a copy editor, one of the most common grammar mistakes I come across is a lack of agreement between various parts of a sentence. This can occur between subjects and verbs, pronouns and antecedents, and adjectives and nouns. These mistakes not only make the writing sound awkward, but they also diminish the author`s credibility and professionalism. In this article, I will provide a brief overview of the main types of agreement in grammar and some tips on how to avoid making these mistakes.
The most basic type of agreement in grammar is subject-verb agreement. This means that the verb in a sentence must agree with the subject in terms of number and person. For example, if the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural. Additionally, the verb must match the person of the subject, whether it is first person, second person, or third person.
One of the most common mistakes in subject-verb agreement is with collective nouns. These are nouns that refer to a group of people or things, such as “team”, “family”, or “company”. While these nouns are singular, they refer to multiple individuals. Therefore, the verb that follows them should be plural. For example, “The team are practicing for the game” is incorrect, as “team” is singular and requires a singular verb. The correct sentence would be “The team is practicing for the game”.
Another important type of agreement in grammar is pronoun-antecedent agreement. A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun in a sentence, such as “he”, “she”, or “they”. The antecedent is the noun that the pronoun refers to. Pronouns must agree with their antecedents in terms of number, gender, and person.
One of the most common mistakes in pronoun-antecedent agreement is using a pronoun that doesn`t match the gender of the antecedent. For example, saying “Each student must bring their own lunch” is incorrect, as “their” is a plural pronoun and doesn`t match the singular antecedent “student”. The correct sentence would be “Each student must bring his or her own lunch”.
Finally, adjectives must agree with the nouns they describe in terms of number and gender. This means that if the noun is singular, the adjective should also be singular, and if the noun is plural, the adjective should also be plural. Additionally, if the noun is masculine or feminine, the adjective should match the gender.
One of the most common mistakes in adjective-noun agreement is using the wrong form of an adjective. For example, saying “She is a good writer” is correct, as “good” is the correct form for describing a female writer. However, saying “She is a great writer” is incorrect, as “great” is a masculine adjective and doesn`t match the feminine noun “writer”. The correct sentence would be “She is a great writer”.
Agreements in grammar can be challenging, but they are essential for clear and effective communication. By understanding subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, and adjective-noun agreement, writers can avoid common mistakes and improve the quality of their writing. Keep in mind that these agreements are not arbitrary rules, but rather logical principles that make language more precise and cohesive. As a copy editor, I highly recommend paying close attention to agreements in grammar to enhance the clarity and impact of your writing.