As a copy editor, one of the most common grammar mistakes I come across in writing is a lack of verb agreement. This grammatical error can quickly detract from the quality and professionalism of any content, especially in SEO writing where every word counts. Luckily, there are a few straightforward guidelines to follow to ensure your writing uses proper verb agreement and is clear, concise, and effective.

Subject-Verb Agreement

The first step to writing proper verb agreement is understanding the relationship between the subject of a sentence and the verb. The subject is the entity performing the action in the sentence, while the verb is the action itself. For example, in the sentence “The dog barks,” the subject is “the dog,” and the verb is “barks.”

When writing in the present tense, singular subjects require singular verbs, while plural subjects require plural verbs. For example, “The cat scratches the couch,” uses a singular subject and verb “scratches,” while “The cats scratch the couch,” uses the plural form of the verb “scratch.” These simple rules apply to all present-tense sentences, regardless of their complexity.

Compound Subjects

In more complex sentences, you may come across compound subjects, which are two or more subjects in the same sentence. When dealing with compound subjects, it is essential to remember that they are treated as the plural form. For example, “The cat and the dog scratch the couch,” uses the plural verb “scratch” because there are two subjects performing the action.

Nouns as Subjects

When writing, we often refer to nouns as subjects in our sentences. In these cases, it is essential to remember that the verb must agree with the subject, even if the subject is not a person or animal. For example, “The computer runs slowly” uses the singular verb “runs” to agree with the singular subject “computer.” Similarly, “The cars drive on the highway” uses the plural verb “drive” to agree with the plural subject “cars.”

Third-Person Singular

Another common verb agreement mistake is failing to use the third-person singular form with singular subjects. The third-person singular refers to subjects such as he, she, it, and any singular noun. For example, “She walks to school” uses the third-person singular verb “walks” to agree with the singular subject “she.”

Irregular Verbs

While the rules for verb agreement are generally straightforward, there are a few irregular verbs in the English language that can trip up even the most experienced writers. These verbs do not follow the regular pattern of adding -s or -es to the base form of the verb in the third-person singular. For example, “He has, she has, it has” is the third-person singular form of the irregular verb “have.”

In conclusion, understanding verb agreement is crucial to writing effective, professional, and grammatically correct content. By following these simple guidelines and practicing regularly, you can avoid common errors and ensure your writing is clear, concise, and engaging for your audience. Remember to always proofread your work and seek the input of a professional copy editor to catch any errors and refine your writing.