Subjects – Simple, Compound and not so Simple

The subject of a sentence is what the sentence is all about.

John is going out on a vacation.

The above is a simple sentence with John as the subject. The subject is made up of a single noun, John.

Now let us look at the following examples:

John and Mary are going out on a vacation. (2)

John, along with Mary is going out on a vacation

Either me or my brothers will come today.

The subjects are no longer single nouns, but are a part of a phrase consisting of many nouns, joined together either by a conjunction or additives. Essentially, now the subject is a noun phrase, consisting of many nouns tied together with conjunctions or additives.

In the specific case of two nouns combined by the conjunctive and, it is called a compound subject (as in example (2)).

Noun phrases can also be longer as in the following examples:

A swarm of bees is invading the farm. (5)

The committee of engineers is scheduled to meet today.(6)

The members of parliament are scheduled to get a pay hike. (7)

In the above cases, the subject consists of a several nouns connected by prepositions, In such cases, you should be careful when choosing the verb that follows the subject phrase. The verb usually refers to the main subject (swarm, committee, members) inside the subject phrase. Hence, whether the verb is singular or plural will be decided by the main subject and not the noun nearest to it.

The noun phrases in the above examples had nouns related to each other using prepositions. Hence structurally, they are referred to as prepositional phrases.Functionally, they are noun phrases.

Standardized Tests like the SAT often confuse the test taker by placing a singular or plural verb right next to a singular or plural noun in a subject phrase. The student has to comprehend the meaning of the sentence and correctly understand the noun the verb refers to and on that basis choose its number. In (6) and (7) the verbs is and are correctly refer to swarm and parliament.

 

In the following examples, can you correctly identify the verb that should be used?

The mechanic with the families repair/repairs the cars in their godowns.

The wives of the armed forces veterans is/are at the charity ball.

……………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………..

……………………………………………………………

Answers:

repairs as mechanic is singular.

are because wives is plural.

Two more examples for you:

The grievance of the ladies in the apartment block , was/were that the security guards were not always present at their station.

The cat on the hot tin roofs look/looks ready to jump at me any moment.

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