SAT Essay Help: Subject/Verb Agreement and Run-On Sentences (page 2)
A grammatical error or misspelled word won't be held against you. But an essay that continuously breaks the conventions of the language will get a lower score. Many of the issues presented in this chapter are tested in the SAT multiple-choice Writing section, and understanding them will improve your essay writing as well. Take the time to review these grammar and mechanics elements, which typically form the greatest number of errors on the SAT Essay. Learn them now and you'll score higher on the test!
Agreement refers to number—if you have a singular subject, you need a singular verb. Plural subjects take plural verbs. To achieve subject/verb agreement, first determine whether your subject is singular or plural, and then pair it with the correct verb form.
The following examples use the verb to be, which is irregular (I am, you are, he/she/it is, they are, I was, you were, he/she/it was, they were):
- Instead of: Tim and Fran is a great couple.
- Write: Tim and Fran are a great couple. (Tim and Fran is a plural subject that takes a plural verb.)
- Instead of: One of my friends are going to your school.
- Write: One of my friends is going to school. (One is a singular subject takes a singular verb.)
When it Gets Tricky
Agreement can be difficult to determine when sentences are complex, or when the subject is compound (made up of more than one noun). Common examples include sentences in which the subject follows the verb, and those beginning with there is/are, and here is/are. When editing your work, remember to first figure out whether your subject is singular or plural, and then match it to the correct verb.
- Instead of: There is too many meetings scheduled on Tuesday morning.
- Write: There are too many meetings scheduled on Tuesday morning.
- Instead of: Here are the report you asked me to write.
- Write: Here is the report you asked me to write.
When compound subjects are connected by and (pencils and pens; the ball, the bat, and the mitt), they are plural. When they're connected by or (World War I or World War II; biology, chemistry, or physics), they are singular. Confusion can set in when the nouns forming the compound subject are both singular and plural and connected by or. Here are two examples:
Lee or his friends are driving too fast.
Was it his friends or Lee who was driving too fast?
Both sentences are correct, because when you have a compound subject made up of at least one singular subject and one plural subject connected by or, the verb must agree with the subject that is closest to it. In the first case, friends is plural, so the plural verb are is correct. In the second, Lee is singular, so the singular was is correct.
Run-on Sentences and Fragments
These are two of the most common errors on SAT essays. They are formed by incorrectly joining two or more independent clauses (complete sentences that should stand on their own) or by leaving out either the subject or verb from a sentence.
I was on the soccer team, however I enjoy playing golf.
This sentence contains two independent clauses: / was on the soccer team and I enjoy playing golf. Because they can stand alone, they can't be joined with a comma. Run-on sentences can be corrected by breaking them into two or more complete sentences, by adding a conjunction (a connecting word such as and, but, yet, or so), or by changing the punctuation. Here's a corrected version: by another example:
I was on the soccer team, and I also enjoy playing golf.
When spring break is over, we will get back to work, there will be plenty of studying to do before finals.
The clause when spring break is over is correctly attached to we will get back to work with a comma. But the second independent clause, there will be plenty of studying to do before finals cannot be joined to the first with only a comma. It is a complete sentence that can stand alone, so if it remains part of the longer sentence, it must be connected with a period or semicolon.
Fragments are groups of words that are presented as sentences but lack a subject, a verb, or both.
The well-dressed man. Walked to school in the rain.
In the first fragment, the verb is missing. All we have is a subject. What did the well-dressed man do? In the second fragment, the subject is missing. Who walked in the rain? To correct sentence fragments, determine what is missing (subject or verb) and add it. Note that number of words has nothing to do with distinguish ing fragments from sentences—fragments can be long!
Instead of: My older sister Ellen, who traveled to Japan.
Write: My older sister Ellen traveled to Japan.
Instead of: Taking a taxi when it is raining to keep her shoes from being ruined by the water.
Write: Taking a taxi when it is raining keeps her shoes from being ruined by the water.
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