Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Subject-Verb Agreement (3).

Today: False Attraction to Predicate Noun. Occasionally a writer incorrectly looks to the predicate rather than to the subject for the noun that will govern the verb. The “correct” way of phrasing the sentence is often awkward, so the writer is well advised to find another way of stating the idea — e.g.: o “You can use live or artificial bait to catch these fish. My favorite are top-water plugs, plastic jigs and live green backs or shrimp.” Mike Manning, “Captain’s Corner,” St. Petersburg Times, 30 July 1997, at C2. (Read: “My favorites are” or “My favorite bait is . . . .”) o “It has been placed in the grave on top of old bones which presumably is the skeleton of Declan.” Peter Tremayne, “Corpse on a Holy Day,” in And the Dying Is Easy 291, 295 (2001). (Because “which” takes its number from its antecedent “bones,” the verb should be “are.” Also, a comma should precede the “which.” Hence, “old bones, which are presumably the skeleton of Declan.”) Next: Compound Subjects Joined Conjunctively. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Certain errors in concord and agreement, like those of vulgate verb forms (‘Fred and his uncle goes to every game’; ‘We come as soon as we could’), have long been clear marks of lower social formal education, low level of occupation, and lack of economic and political or social power.” Kenneth G. Wilson, Van Winkle’s Return 78 (1987).
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