Friday, November 8, 2013

"Cheating... are becoming"

My brother sent this headline from an Ottawa daily newspaper last week:

This headline contains an error in subject-verb agreement. In any sentence, the number of a verb has to match the number of its subject.

To determine the correct form of the verb, we would ask ourselves, "what is/are becoming more creative?"

The answer is "cheating," which is singular. For correct subject-verb agreement, the sentence should read, "Cheating at Ottawa schools is becoming more creative each day," since "is becoming" is the singular form of the verb.

If we re-worded the sentence slightly, and "cheaters" became the subject of the verb "becoming," it would be a different story (and likely, a more accurate statement, since cheating can't really be creative -- only cheaters can). In that case, we would say "Cheaters at Ottawa schools are becoming more creative each day." The plural subject ("cheaters") would call for a plural verb ("are becoming").

Thanks for the tip, Chris!

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