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Published byReginald Jacobs Modified over 7 years ago
2. Phrases / Agreement
Phrases A phrase is a group of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence. Unlike the clause, a phrase does not have a subject-verb pair within it. – A phrase behaves like the kind of word that names it. For example, an adjective phrase works like a lone adjective and an adverb phrase works like a lone adverb. – Adjective and adverb phrases are usually quite short: Adjective phrases – very thin, loud enough Adverb phrases – clearly enough, too slowly
Noun and verb phrases A phrase can also act like a noun. As a matter of fact, the subject of any given clause is a noun phrase. The noun phrase can be either very short or quite long. It can be as short as a pronoun (e.g. I, it). On the other hand, it can include a noun and multiple groups of words that are modifying it. A phrase can also act like a verb. In fact, the main verb in any clause should be thought of as part of a verb phrase. The verb phrase can be rather long because it includes the verb plus any completers that come after it (object or objects, adverbs and phrases, etc).
Two key concepts In academic writing, with very few exceptions, the subject comes before its verb phrase. The subject must agree with its verb phrase in number. This means that if the subject noun phrase has singular or plural meaning, the verb phrase must correspond. In the simple tenses, agreement is marked on the main verb, but in forms with an auxiliary verb (such as the progressive and perfect tenses), agreement is marked on the auxiliary verb be or have. Examples – Simple tense: The interviewer prepares the questions. The interviewers prepare the questions. – With auxiliary: The interviewer has prepared the questions. The interviewers are preparing the questions.
Phrase heads Every independent clause has at least one noun phrase (subject) and one verb phrase (verb). The head of each of these phrases corresponds to the part of speech it is named after – noun or verb. The head can be simple or compound: Simple noun head: The researcher Compound noun head: The researcher and her assistant Simple verb head: gathered [e.g., “gathered some data”] Compound verb head: gathered and analyzed [e.g., “gathered and analyzed some data”]
Complications Subject-verb agreement can be complicated because the form of the noun closest to the verb can be singular but the whole noun phrase can be plural. Simply looking at a noun form close to the verb can be deceiving. Consider one of the examples from the last slide: The professor and her assistant Both nouns in this compound head are singular, but the compound is plural; therefore, the verb needs to be plural. The professor and her assistant have gathered the data.
Exception! Each and every The words each and every create an exception to the rule. The noun phrase containing them is considered to have singular meaning even if the head is compound. The verb must therefore be singular as well. – Every book, magazine, and newspaper is about politics.
Expressions of Quantity With most expressions of quantity, the verb depends on the noun that follows the word “of”. As a general rule, if the noun is in a plural form, the verb is plural. If the noun has no plural form or is not using one, the verb is singular. – Half of the money is mine. (singular) – Half of the students are here. (plural) – Some of the fruit is rotten. (singular) – Some of the strawberries are rotten. (plural)
Still more exceptions! One of / each of / every one of....all of these expressions take singular verbs. – Every one of my friends is on vacation. Expressions of time, money, and distance require singular verbs. – Fifty dollars is too expensive. – Seven hours of sleep is enough for me. – Five kilometres is a short distance on a bike.
Two special types of noun A gerund is the -ing form of a verb used as a noun. Gerunds are singular. Swimming is among the most effective exercises. An adjectival noun is an adjective used as a noun. These nouns are normally preceded by “the” and have plural meaning. The poor are always with us.
A final complicating factor It is easy to misidentify the subject of a sentence if a prepositional phrase comes between it and the verb. Consider the following examples: – The scientists at the conference were annoyed. – The owner of the labs has sold all his holdings.
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