Verbs and Pronoun Review for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 3)
Verbs are the action words of sentences. They tell the reader what the subject of the sentence (generally a noun) is doing, did, or will do. For instance, in the simple sentence Suzzane likes Tom, "Suzanne" is the subject (the doer of the action), "likes" is the verb (the action), and "Tom" is the object (the recipient of the action). As sentences get longer and the ideas they express become more complex, so do issues surrounding how the verb is used and which formed a verb you need to use. The following sections on verbs provide a refresher in basic verb usage.
In written language, a subject must agree with its verb in number. In other words, if a subject is singular, the erb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. If you are unsure whether a verb is singular or plural, apply this simple test. Fill in the blanks in the two sentences below with the matching form of the verb. The verb form that best completes the first sentence is singular. The verb form that best completes the second sentence is plural.
One person _____. [Singular]
Two people _____. [Plural]
Look at these examples using the verbs speak and do. Try it yourself with any verb that confuses you.
One person speaks. One person does. Two people speak. Two people do.
Few people have trouble matching noun subjects and verbs, but pronouns are sometimes difficult for even the most sophisticated writers. Some pronouns are always singular, others are always plural, and still others can be either singular or plural, depending on the usage.
These pronouns are always singular:
- no one
The indefinite pronouns each, either, and neither are most often misused. You can avoid a mismatch by mentally adding the word one after the pronoun and removing the other words between the pronoun and the verb. Look at the following examples.
Each of the officers wants his own squad car.
Each one wants his own squad car.
Either of the suspects knows where the stolen merchandise is located.
Either one knows where the stolen merchandise is located.
These sentences may sound awkward because many speakers misuse these pronouns, and you are probably used to hearing them used incorrectly. Despite that, the substitution trick (inserting one for the words following the pronoun) will help you avoid this mistake.
Some pronouns are always plural and require a plural verb:
both many few several
Other pronouns can be either singular or plural:
all none any some most
The words or prepositional phrases following these pronouns determine whether they are singular or plural. If what follows the pronoun is plural, the verb must be plural. If what follows is singular, the verb must be singular.
- All of the work is finished.
- All of the jobs are finished.
- Is any of the pizza left?
- Are any of the pieces of pizza left?
- None of the time was wasted.
- None of the minutes were wasted.
Subjects Joined by and
If two nouns or pronouns are joined by and, they require a plural verb.
- He and she want to buy a new house.
- Jack and Jill want to buy a new house.
Subjects Joined by or or nor
If two nouns or pronouns are joined by or or nor, they require a singular verb. Think of them as two separate sentences and you'll never make a mistake in agreement.
- He or she wants to buy a new house.
- He wants to buy a new house.
- She wants to buy a new house.
- Neither Jack nor Jill is good at basketball.
- Jack is not good at basketball.
- Jill is not good at basketball.
Circle the correct verb in each of the following sentences.
- Every other day either Bert or Ed (takes, take) out the trash.
- The woman in question (works, work) at the Civic Center box office.
- A good knowledge of the rules (helps, help) you understand the game.
- Each of these factors (causes, cause) the crime rate to increase.
- (Have, Has) either of them ever arrived on time?
The tense of a verb tells a reader when the action occurs. Present tense verbs tell the reader to imagine the action happening as it is being read, while past tense verbs tell the reader that the action has already happened. Read the following two paragraphs. The first one is written in the present tense, the second in the past tense. Notice the difference in the verbs. They are highlighted to make them easier to locate.
As Officer Horace opens the door, he glances around cautiously. He sees signs of danger everywhere. The centerpiece and placemats from the dining room table are scattered on the floor next to the table. An end table in the living room is lying on its side. He sees the curtains flapping and notices glass on the carpet in front of the window.
As Officer Horace opened the door, he glanced around cautiously. He saw signs of danger everywhere. The centerpiece and placemats from the dining room table were scattered on the floor next to the table. An end table in the living room was lying on its side. He saw the curtains flapping and noticed glass on the carpet in front of the window.
You can distinguish present tense from past tense by simply fitting the verb into a sentence.
The important thing to remember about verb tense is to keep it consistent. If a passage begins in the present tense, keep it in the present tense unless there is a specific reason to change—to indicate that some action occurred in the past, for instance. If a passage begins in the past tense, it should remain in the past tense. Verb tense should never shift as it does in the following sentence.
|Wrong:||Officer Terry opens the door and saw the unruly crowd.|
|Correct:||Officer Terry opens the door and sees the unruly crowd.|
|Officer Terry opened the door and saw the unruly crowd.|
However, sometimes it is necessary to use a different verb tense in order to clarify when an action occurred. Read the following sentences and the explanations following them.
The sergeant sees the criminal that you caught. [The verb sees is in the present tense, indicating that the action is occurring in the present. However, the verb caught is in the past tense, indicating that the criminal was caught at some earlier time.]
The prison that was built over a century ago sits on top of the hill. [The verb phrase was built is in the past tense, indicating that the prison was built in the past. However, the verb sits is in the present tense, indicating that the action is still occurring.]
Choose the option that uses the verb tense correctly.
- When I work hard, I always get what I want.
- When I works hard, I always gets what I want.
- When I work hard, I always got what I wanted.
- When I worked hard, I always get what I wanted.
- It all started after I came home and am in my room studying for the police exam.
- It all started after I came home and was in my room studying for the police exam.
- It all starts after I come home and was in my room studying for the police exam.
- It all will start after I came home and are in my room studying for the police exam.
- The suspect became nervous and dashes into the house and slams the door.
- The suspect becomes nervous and dashed into the home and slammed the door.
- The suspect becomes nervous and will dash into the home and will slam the door.
- The suspect became nervous and dashed into the house and slammed the door.
- Sergeant Phillips _____ promoted to lieutenant next year.
- has been
- will be
- a. Choice a is the only one in which the tenses agree and the subject and verb (first person singular) also agree.
- b. Choice b is the only sentence in which the two past tenses match.
- d. Choice d is the only one in which all three verbs became, dashed, and slammed) are in the same tense and agree with the subject of the sentence.
- c. Next year tells you that the future tense is required.
Most of the time, a single pronoun in a sentence is easy to use correctly. In fact, most English speakers would readily identify the mistakes in the following sentences.
- Me went to the prison with he.
- My partner gave she a ride to work.
Most people know that Me in the first sentence should be I and that he should be him. They would also know that she in the second sentence should be her. Such errors are easy to spot when the pronouns are used alone in a sentence. The problem occurs when a pronoun is used with a noun or another pronoun. See if you can spot the errors in the following sentences.
- The rookie rode with Jerry and I.
- Belle and him are going to the courthouse.
The errors in these sentences are not as easy to spot as those in the sentences with a single pronoun. The easiest way to attack this problem is to turn the sentence with two pronouns into two separate sentences. Then the error once again becomes very obvious.
- The rookie rode with Jerry.
- The rookie rode with me (not I).
- Belle is going to the courthouse. [Notice the singular verb is in place of are.]
- He (not him) is going to the courthouse.
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