Author Topic: Subject Verb Agreement  (Read 4633 times)

Jhumur

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Subject Verb Agreement
« on: July 28, 2015, 12:52:17 AM »
"Falling oil prices have hurt the economies of Gulf countries."

or

"Falling oil prices has hurt the economies of Gulf countries."

I see both the have/has usages common on the internet. Which is the correct one?

Thanks.



« Last Edit: August 04, 2015, 10:28:16 PM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Re: Subject Verb Agreement
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2015, 08:33:51 AM »
The first construction, “Falling oil prices have hurt the economies of Gulf countries,” is grammatically correct based on the subject-verb agreement rule that the form of the verb must agree with the number (whether singular or plural) of the subject or of the doer (agent) doing the action. The subject here is clearly the noun phrase “falling oil prices,” which is plural both grammatically and notionally. It thus needs the plural present-perfect form “have hurt” of the verb.

Based on the same analysis, the sentence “Falling oil prices has hurt the economies of Gulf countries” is faulty both grammatically and notionally. In this construction, it’s really a stretch—and a wrong one at that—to consider the phrase “falling oil prices” a gerund, which would make it conceptually singular as a subject.

If you found that this wrong construction is common in the Internet, it’s most likely because some writers mistake it for the correct construction “The falling of oil prices has hurt the economies of Gulf countries,” where the subject is the phrase “the falling of oil prices.” This time, what we have is a gerund phrase that’s both notionally and grammatically singular. It is for this particular construction that the correct form of the present-perfect verb is the singular “has hurt.”

Melvin

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Re: Subject Verb Agreement
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2015, 11:22:20 AM »
Sir,
 What does notionally mean in your explanation," The subject here is clearly the noun phrase “falling oil prices,” which is plural both grammatically and notionally."?

Joe Carillo

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Re: Subject Verb Agreement
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2015, 10:12:40 AM »
I have answered this question of yours in the "Essays of Jose Carillo" section. Please click this link to "When notional agreement prevails over plain grammatical agreement" to read it.

That essay first appeared in my English-usage column in the September 19 issue of The Manila Times with the same title.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2016, 06:15:08 AM by Joe Carillo »