Subject-verb agreement in the real world

“Bank owned properties, commonly called REO or real estate owned, is one of the most common foreclosure investment practices today.” This sentence, which I saw on a real estate website, shows how easy it is to create a subject-verb agreement error.

Verbs should agree in number and person with the subject. Usually, this is simple: It’s “I am,” not “I are.” It’s “he walks,” not “he walk.” But it’s not always that easy. 

The longer your sentence, the easier it is to lose track of which word is supposed to be the subject, making it that much easier to use the wrong verb conjugation. 

In “Bank owned properties commonly called REO or real estate owned is one of the most common foreclosure investment practices today,” the main verb is “is.” The subject it’s supposed to agree with is a little hard to pin down because it’s surrounded by so much other stuff. But when you zero in on it, you see that the real subject is “properties.” So at its core, this sentence says “properties is.” Of course, it should be “properties are” in which a plural verb matches a plural subject. But the writer stumbled and there was no editor on the job to catch him. 

Whenever your subject gets complicated, pay careful attention to the verb to make sure the two agree.

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One Response to “Subject-verb agreement in the real world”

  1. Shouldn’t the writer have put dashes (or maybe parentheses) before “commonly” and after “owned” ? This would have eliminated the confusion for both writer and reader.