Subject-Verb Agreement with Intervening Nouns
by Tina Blue
January 28, 2007
Recently a reader wrote to ask, "Is the form of the verb "to arrive" correct in this sentence?"
"The car, along with the cat and cow, arrives at the gate."
(He added, "I do not want to say, 'The car, cat, and cow arrive at the gate.'")
This sentence is correct, because the subject of the verb is "car," so the verb must be singular. The words "cat" and "cow" constitute a compound object of the preposition "along with." The object of the preposition cannot influence whether the verb is singular or plural. Also, that prepositional phrase "along with the cat and cow" is an interrupter, a parenthetical phrase, so it is tangential to the subject-verb relationship in the clause.
On the other hand, that sort of phrasing does confuse people who have an imperfect grasp of grammar, and they might well think it wrong, even though it is perfectly correct. As a writer, you have to decide whether that is a risk worth taking. If the imperfectly educated person is your teacher, boss, or editor, it really might not be worth the risk.
It is quite common for the subject-verb relationship in a sentence to be confused by an appositive or a prepositional phrase with a plural object that precedes the verb. Just keep in mind that a verb must agree with its subject, not with a noun that intervenes between it and the subject, when that noun is an appositive or the object in a phrase.
~I, the parent, is the one who gets to make the rules.
~The condition of our campus buildings are deteriorating.
~The explanation for the sudden change in plans were not convincing.
~Melanie, as well as some other members of her family, were determined to make that journey before winter set in.
~He, together with Eric and Jacob, are competing in tomorrow's race.
~I, the parent, am the one who gets to make the rules.
~The condition of our campus buildings is deteriorating.
~The explanation for the sudden change in plans was not convincing.
~Melanie, as well as some other members of her family, wants
to make that journey before winter sets in.
~He, together with Eric and Jacob, is competing in tomorrow's race.