Verb Collocation Disagreement: Why It Matters and How to Avoid It
As a copy editor, one of the most common errors I come across is verb collocation disagreement. This occurs when a verb and its associated modifiers do not agree in number or tense. It may not seem like a big deal, but this error can affect the clarity, professionalism, and credibility of your writing. In this article, we will explore why verb collocation agreement is important and how to avoid it.
Why Does Verb Collocation Agreement Matter?
Verb collocation agreement is important for two primary reasons: clarity and professionalism.
Clarity: When the verb and its modifiers do not agree, confusion can arise for readers. A sentence that is not clear can lead to misunderstandings, which can ultimately impact your message. For example, consider the sentence “The team of doctors was responsible for treating patients.” This sentence would be clearer if written “The team of doctors were responsible for treating patients” since the team is made up of multiple doctors.
Professionalism: When your writing contains grammatical errors, it detracts from your professionalism. Your writing should be a reflection of your expertise in your field. If you cannot communicate effectively through writing, it may lead others to doubt your abilities.
How to Avoid Verb Collocation Disagreement
Now that we’ve established why verb collocation agreement is important, here are some tips on how to avoid it in your writing:
1. Check for subject-verb agreement: As you write, pay attention to the subject of each sentence and ensure that the verb agrees with it in number and tense. For example, “The dog barks” is correct, whereas “The dog bark” is incorrect.
2. Be mindful of compound subjects: If a sentence has a compound subject (two or more subjects joined by “and”), the verb should be plural. For example, “John and Sarah are running” is correct.
3. Watch for collective nouns: Collective nouns (such as “team” or “group”) can be tricky because they can be either singular or plural, depending on how they are being used. For example, “The team was excited” is correct, but “The team were arguing” is also correct because the team is made up of individual members.
4. Pay attention to past and present tense: Ensure that the verb tense matches the time frame of the sentence. If the sentence is in the past tense, use past tense verbs. If the sentence is in the present tense, use present tense verbs.
5. Be consistent: Avoid switching tenses within the same sentence or paragraph. This can confuse the reader and detract from your message.
In conclusion, verb collocation agreement is an important aspect of clear and professional writing. By being mindful of subject-verb agreement, compound subjects, collective nouns, past and present tense, and consistency, you can avoid this common error and produce writing that effectively communicates your message.