Solving Issues of Grammar, Tenses and Subject-Verb Agreement
Wordsmith Essays’ professional essay editing service offers you the fastest turnarounds and best value for your dollar of any essay editors out there today. We also strive to help you improve your writing above and beyond our editing service. Today, one of our editors helps you through some tricky issues of grammar.
In previous posts, I’ve done my best to stress that grammar is largely a matter of style and that writers should strive for clarity, even if it means breaking some of the so-called “rules” of English grammar. The English language is a flexible beast and writers should experiment with things like the passive voice, ending a sentence with a preposition, and splitting infinitives, rather than declaring such useful tools off limits.
But some rules are harder than others and there are a handful of things that will almost always be considered by mistakes. For example, the “full stop” or “period” always appears at the end of the sentence. If it appears anywhere else:
A herd of velociraptors are operating out of the basement. of the local library
It would be wrong and very few people, outside of the odd experimental poet or ee cummings fan, would disagree. Today, we’re going to look at two common things that just about everyone would consider a grammatical mistake, but everyone does all the time anyway.
The first one is unintentional tense shifting. In general, tense is simply a grammatical expression of time. For example:
I see a bird.
We know this observation takes place in the present. It is in the “present tense”. However, if I wrote:
I saw a bird.
That would mean that the action of “seeing the bird” happened in the past. Tense shifting is when the tense changes in a piece of writing. This is fine when it is intentional. For example, the following sentence would be fine:
When I was a child, I rode a polar bear to school. I know most schools won’t allow that sort of thing now, but it was a different time back then.
In this passage, we have both past and present tense, but the changes in tense are signaled to the reader and used to indicate that a narrator in the present is commenting on actions in the past. The problem comes when a tense shift is unintentional:
The giant spectral pig roared at me. I scream and ran up to my room. I hide in the closet and hoped that it can’t climb the stairs.
The tense shifts are obviously not intentional and the result is a confused mess where we are unsure of whether the action is happening in the past or present. That’s why you should always check your tenses and make sure that everything matches up properly:
The giant spectral pig roared at me. I screamed and ran up to my room. I hid in the closed and hoped that it couldn’t climb the stairs.
The other important one to watch out for is subject-verb agreement. The idea behind this is pretty simple. In English grammar, there are singular verb forms and plural verb forms. You should use a singular verb form when referring to a singular subject:
My fiancee is the masked vigilante Lazerstorm.
And a plural verb form when referring to a plural subject:
My family are all super-villains, so this is going to be a very awkward Thanksgiving dinner.
Otherwise, you get some very weird sounding sentences:
My fiancee are the masked vigilante Lazerstorm.
My family is all super-villains, so this are going to be a very awkward Thanksgiving dinner.
Take your time, read through your work thoroughly, and make sure that everything matches up properly. It may not seem like a big deal, but these details are important and can have a major effect on both the clarity and quality of your writing.
That’s all for today. Next time, we’ll take a look at the elements of a sentence and how they can be manipulated to improve your craft. Until then, stay safe and keep writing!
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