Take the Subject-Verb Agreement, Part 3 Quiz!


Warning! This quiz is tough. It’s based on my 3rd post on subject-verb agreement. We have waded into deeper grammatical waters here. In fact, I am still waffling on the answer to one of these questions. I am unable to convincingly defend the answer I just know in my gut to be right. See if you can guess which one that is.

Generally, my quiz-takers do quite well. I have a smart bunch of readers. But I’m curious to see how folks do on this one. I have a funny feeling I’ll get some arguments about my answers, but other than that one I mentioned above, I’m confident I’ve got them right. If you disagree, please make your case in the reply section below. There’s no better way to really get a grasp of grammar than hashing out  the tricky stuff.


Quiz Subject Verb Agreement 3

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If you want to share your score or argue an answer, leave a comment below.

About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Ali

    Per number 7:

    What I am hoping for ____ a raise and a promotion

    “What I am hoping for” is a singular noun clause. That’s why the verb is singular. Is that an over simplification? That the subject complement is plural doesn’t matter.

    That begs the question of the explanation you gave above regarding “All I need…” I understood your explanation to be saying that because the predicate nominative was plural, the verb should be plural; however, I wrote “is” and was not marked incorrect.

  2. Mary Brueggemann
    Mary Brueggemann02-14-2013

    I’m excited! I scored a 100%. You must have done a good job of explaining all these rules in your previous posts. Thanks.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-14-2013

      I am always happy to take credit for your success, Mary!

  3. Catherine Hershey
    Catherine Hershey02-08-2013

    I only got 70%. (English major) But i really disagree with no. 8. Explain, please, thanks.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-08-2013

      Spoiler alert…

      #8 is “All we need ________ two toasters and a pair of binoculars.”

      This is really tricky, I admit. The subject of the verb here is the indefinite pronoun “all.” All is one of those pronouns that can be either singular or plural, depending on what it’s referring to:

      “All my friends are smart.”
      “All my money is gone.”

      The answer here is complicated by the restrictive “we need” clause that follows. Usually, “all” is followed by an of-phrase and we determine its number by looking at the object of the preposition “of”. If it’s a plural noun use the plural verb. If it’s a non-count noun, use the singular.

      The only way to determine the number of “all” when an expression like “all we need” or “all that we need” is to look at the predicate nominative on the other side of the verb. In this case, “All” is referring to “two toasters and a pair of binoculars,” a compound objects combined by “and” and therefore, plural.

      Now, there is an argument out there that the expression “all that we need” should always be followed by a singular verb, but I can’t find any logical or grammatical basis for that.

      For the record, I would never quarrel with anyone who uses the singular verb in a sentence like this. The rule is too obscure and difficult. But this quiz was supposed to be difficult! 🙂

      If you have another view, I’m all ears, Catherine. 🙂

  4. Saved Girl/ Amber
    Saved Girl/ Amber02-07-2013

    I scored 90 percent, but I don’t understand number 5. It seems to me that either one could work. The tense is what is different, not the number. You could say “the portrait hang” (I think), but also “the portrait hangs” (my choice, which was marked incorrect). I just don’t understand why it is wrong. Perhaps you could enlighten me. 🙂

    • Saved Girl/ Amber
      Saved Girl/ Amber02-07-2013

      Oh and is #7 “raise and promotion” the one you weren’t sure about. It was the one for me where I wasn’t sure, but the answer I put just sounded right. And it was correct.

      • Brian Wasko
        Brian Wasko02-08-2013

        Yes, #7 is the one where I still can’t confidently defend what I know to be the right answer.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-08-2013

      I’m not sure what you mean about number 5, Amber. Just like all the questions, the options are between singular (hangs) and plural (hang). Both are in the present tense. The past tense of “hang” is “hung.”

      Spoiler Alert: The reason the correct answer is “hang” is that the subject isn’t simply “portrait” (in which case the correct answer would be the singular “hangs”). You have a compound subject in that sentence: “portrait” and “map.” They are connected by the conjunction “and,” which means the verb must be plural: “hang.”

      Get it?

      • Saved Girl/ Amber
        Saved Girl/ Amber02-08-2013

        Ooooh!! Now I get it. That was a tricky one. I totally missed the map part. I guess I just skimmed it and thought it was part of the subject of the portrait. So close….. 🙂

      • Saved Girl/ Amber
        Saved Girl/ Amber02-08-2013

        Just for clarification about the tense of “to hang”, I see what you mean about it and even before I pushed publish on the comment I started to rethink “hang” being used in the past tense. I still, however, can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard it used that way before like, “I walked closer and there hang the portrait.” Am I just going crazy or is this a word that gets misused a lot?

        Oh, and I did take this one w/o peeking at your post as well. I like doing it that way; it really tests what I know, not my “reading comprehension” so to speak. Maybe you could do some of your quizzes that way; post the quiz, then your explanatory post. Just a thought.

        • Brian Wasko
          Brian Wasko02-08-2013

          You are probably crazy, but that’s not why you think that. “Hang” is an irregular verb with an odd past form. It can also be either transitive or intransitive, which adds confusion. And I’m not even discussing the fact that “hanged” is the proper past tense when talking about execution by hanging. I’m very sure you’ve heard it misused often. 🙂

  5. Grammar Nut
    Grammar Nut02-07-2013

    80%. But isn’t the plural of lie, lies?, unless your speaking in past tense, then it would be lays.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-07-2013

      The plural form of the NOUN “lie” is “lies,” (he told two lies), but the SINGULAR form of verbs is the one that ends in -s. You would say “the politician lies” (singular) and “the politicians lie” (plural).

      Remember, there is no differentiation between singular and plural in the past tense, except for the for the verb “be” (was/were). The past tense of the verb “lie” is “lay.” As in, “Yesterday we lay in the tall grass.”

      “Lays” is the singular form of the present tense verb “lay,” which is often confused with “lie.”

      As in, “He lays his keys on the counter,”

      I wrote about this common point of confusion here: http://bit.ly/XqRQvO

      • Brian Wasko
        Brian Wasko02-07-2013

        Well, I’m sure I’ve confused both you and JJ completely. I just went back and looked at question #10 on the quiz and I was incorrect about my use of lay/lays. It should have been lie/lies. I think that’s what you both were trying to tell me.

        Sorry. One of these days, I will post a quiz without any obvious errors. At least in this case it shouldn’t have affected the answer, since it was asking about agreement, not about the proper use of lie vs. lay.

        • JJ

          Thank you!

  6. JJ

    I only got 70%. I think however, the plural of lay should be lies instead of lays. Just a thought. Thank you!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-07-2013

      You should read this post too, JJ: http://bit.ly/XqRQvO

      “Lay” and “lie” are two different verbs. They are not interchangeable. They have similar definitions, but “lay” is transitive–needing an object–and “lie” is intransitive.

      The singular of “lie” is “lies” and the singular of “lay” is “lays.” That’s just how it is.

      What confuses people is that the past tense of “lie” is “lay”: “Yesterday I lay in bed till 9:00.”

      • Brian Wasko
        Brian Wasko02-07-2013

        See my note to Grammar Nut, JJ. What I just said is true, but I think what you are getting at is that my choice of lay/lays in question #10 should have been lie/lies. And about that you would be correct.

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