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Molly Kiefer

ACT Subject Verb Agreement | Video Post

Subject Verb Agreement -magoosh

Subject verb agreement is a big grammar topic that comes up all the time on the ACT.

We know grammar can be one of the most intimidating areas for ACT students…so many rules!

Luckily, you can learn everything you need to know about this high value ACT grammar concept by watching our newest free video: “ACT Subject Verb Agreement – This Comes Up a Lot!”

Just click on the embedded video below, or scroll down for a full video transcript. 🙂

Liam got a 35 on the ACT. Get a higher ACT score with Magoosh.

What Will I See in the “ACT Subject Verb Agreement – This Comes Up a Lot!” Video?

In this 7 minute video, our ACT expert, Kat, will give you a comprehensive look at the two most important things to know about subject verb agreement if you plan on taking the ACT!

    1. The subject may not appear directly in front of the verb!
    2. The subject may appear after the verb!

If you like the video, don’t forget to hit Like, and subscribe to the channel for more study tips. And if you have any more questions subject verb agreement, write to us in the video comments section, and we’ll do our best to clear things up for you! 🙂

“ACT Subject Verb Agreement – This Comes Up a Lot!” Full Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Kat at Magoosh.

And I’m here to give you some really important information on subject verb agreement.

And in order to make sure you have a really thorough overview of this, I decided to just make one of our lessons that currently is only available to Magoosh subscribers, to make that available to all YouTube viewers.

Okay, so go ahead and take a look at this lesson, if you like the lesson you can click the link below and sign up for a free ACT trial account from Magoosh.

This little lesson module is about subject verb agreement, one of the most common error types on the test, so it’s really important for you to know.

And there are a couple important tips I can give you about subject-verb agreement issues on the test.

The first is that the subject may not appear directly in front of the verb.

If you said, the boy run down the street, that is too easy to spot.

It should be the boy runs down the street, and most students will see this right away.

So the test makes it harder on you by putting a bunch of stuff in front of the verb.
So if the subject is actually singular, it will throw a bunch of plural nouns between the actual subject and the verb.

Or vice versa, if it’s plural put a bunch of singular nouns and between it so your ear loses track of what the subject was.

So let’s take a look at these examples.

Let’s start super easy.

Here’s an example you’re not likely to see on the test because it’s too easy.
But it might be on a really easy question.

The exam is truly daunting or the exams are truly daunting.

Well, this is singular so it should be is.

Now, let’s up the difficulty level a little bit.

What’s the subject here?

The topics on the exam is or are truly daunting.

Well, now it’s not exam, it’s topics.

The topics are daunting, so it should be the topics are truly daunting.

Now, note we have this prepositional phrase here.

And that’s really important to notice because prepositional phrases can include those other nouns.

So if you’ve got prepositional phrases in front of your verb, you want to make sure you go back before them to find your subject.

Here is an even more difficult answer.

Now, we’ve added even more stuff.

The exam which cover or covers everything from Plato to plutonium is are daunting.
Okay, so we have this long subordinate clause, set off with commas here.

And when we set off part of the sentence in commas like this, it means we should be able to pull it out the sentence and it should still make sense.

So let’s deal with the main part of the sentence first.

The exam is or are daunting.

The exam is daunting.

That is till our subject.

And cover and covers, well, that refers to exam as well, too.

So it should be the exam covers everything from Plato to plutonium is daunting.

Now, let’s make it even trickier.

Now, we have two phrases getting in the way.

The topics on the exam which cover or covers everything from Plato to plutonium is are daunting.

Okay, so we have this prepositional phrase here.

And we have that subordinate clause set off with commas, so let’s get rid of all of that.

And we have the topics are daunting.

So topics is now our subject.

And the topics on the exam cover everything from Plato to plutonium.

So now, we need the plural verbs.

All right, more phrases getting in the way.

The range of topics on the exam, which cover covers everything from Plato to plutonium is or are daunting.

Let’s get rid of our subordinate phrase there, set off by commas first.

And we have a prepositional phrase here that we’ve already seen in several examples on the exam.

But look, now, we have another one of topics.

Another propositional phrase there in between our subject and our verb.

So let’s bracket that off as well, too.

And now, we have the range is daunting.

And the range covers everything from Plato to plutonium.

So that should also be the singular version of the verb.

All right, so hopefully you’re getting it now.

Lets take a look at a test example.

The philosophy of organic architecture with the scope of its meaning mirrored in the developments of Wright’s various architectural projects were consistently present in many of his works and developments.

So we have this phrase, this parenthetical information set off with commas here, so let’s bracket that off.

And we also have a prepositional phrase here, of organic architecture, so let’s bracket that off as well, too.

And now, we are left with the philosophy as a subject.

So the philosophy was consistently present.

So we wanna make sure that we still keep that comma after projects, and our answer would be C.

And this one has a weird extra comma there, so that’s not right.

And puts a comma between the verb and the rest of the sentence, so that’s also not right.

All right, here is another important tip.

It may not be that the test confuses you with a lot of stuff between the subject and the verb, it may actually be that the subject comes after the verb.

This is called subject-verb inversion.

When you see a sentence like this, your ear has no chance of hearing the correct subject before you get to the verb because you haven’t even read it yet, so these can be particularly tough.

Let’s take a look at a test example of this.

On the mantle above my grandmother’s fireplace lies the collected shells from our evening beach walks.

Okay, so what’s lying on the mantle?

We have these prepositional phrases.

So all we have above the verb are some prepositional phrases.

Where is the subject?

The subject is actually after.

The shells lie on the mantel.

So that is a way that you can help your ear hear what the correct verb should be, is by flipping the sentence yourself.

So we can say the shells or the collected shells from our evening beach walks lie on the mantel above my grandmother’s fireplace.

And so, our answer would be b in this case.

Now, d, there’s usually going to be two answer choices that have the correct verb, and then something else that is changing on the test.

So it should be the collected shells, not the collecting shells.

So that would be why d is wrong.

Okay, so let’s do a quick recap of subject verb agreement.

Remember that the subject may not appear immediately in front of the verb.

In fact, most of the time when the test is testing subject-verb agreement, it’s not going to because it would be just too easy.

So make sure you bracket off those clauses that appear between it, the prepositional phrases, and find the subject.

Second, the subject my appear after the verb.

So if you don’t see the subject before the sentence, or the sentence seems a little funny, cuz often these inverted sentences do, then make sure you’re checking to see if it comes after the verb.

Ask yourself the question what’s doing the action?

And then, hopefully, that helps you.

And then, you flip the sentence around and read it as it would be if the subject came before the verb, and that helps your ear out a lot.

Looking for more strategies to prepare you for the ACT?

Why not check out some of our other free ACT resources for more tips and tricks to help prepare you for test day?

Happy studying! 🙂

About Molly Kiefer

Molly is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She designs Magoosh’s graphic assets, manages our YouTube channels and podcasts, and contributes to the Magoosh High School Blog.

Since 2014, Molly has tutored high school and college students preparing for the SAT, GRE, and LSAT. She began her tutoring journey while in undergrad, helping her fellow students master math, computer programming, Spanish, English, and Philosophy.

Molly graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a B.A. in Philosophy, and she continues to study ethics to this day. An artist at heart, Molly loves blogging, making art, taking long walks and serving as personal agent to her cat, who is more popular on Instagram than she is.


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