Precedence in Agreement: A Guide to Understanding English Grammar
As a copy editor, one of the most important elements of the English language that I often encounter is agreement. Agreement refers to the grammatical rule that dictates that the subject and verb in a sentence must match in number and tense. However, there are times when certain elements in a sentence can make agreement a bit more complicated.
One such instance is the concept of precedence in agreement. Precedence in agreement refers to the idea that when there are multiple elements in a sentence that require agreement, there is a hierarchy of which element takes precedence over the others.
The basic rule of precedence in agreement is that the subject takes precedence over any other element in the sentence. This means that if there is a disagreement between the subject and any other element, the verb should agree with the subject. For example:
– The dogs, along with their owner, run every morning.
Even though there are multiple elements (dogs, owner) in the sentence, the subject (dogs) takes precedence over any other element. Therefore, the verb should be in agreement with the subject: run.
However, there are certain elements that may seem to be the subject but are actually not, such as prepositional phrases or clauses. In these cases, the subject is still the most important element in determining agreement. For example:
– The book that I`m reading, as well as its sequel, is on the bestseller list.
In this sentence, the prepositional phrase “that I`m reading” and the dependent clause “as well as its sequel” may seem like potential subjects. However, the true subject is “book,” and therefore the verb should agree with it: is.
Another instance where precedence in agreement comes into play is when there are compound subjects joined by coordinating conjunctions. In this case, both subjects are equally important, and the verb should agree with both. For example:
– Kim and her friends are going to the concert.
Both “Kim” and “friends” are subjects of the sentence, and therefore the verb should agree with both: are going.
Finally, in some cases, the element that takes precedence in agreement depends on the intended meaning of the sentence. For example:
– One of the boys is going to the store.
Here, “one” is the subject, and therefore the verb should be singular: is. However, if the intended meaning is that both boys are going to the store, the sentence could be rephrased as:
– Both of the boys are going to the store.
In this case, “boys” is now the subject, and therefore the verb should be plural: are.
In conclusion, understanding precedence in agreement is essential for mastering English grammar. Remember that the subject takes precedence over any other element in determining agreement, but be aware of other potential subjects or compound subjects. With this knowledge, you can ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and grammatically correct.