Sentence that needs correction:

Sensationalism in television shows masquerading as "news" programs are making it difficult for serious journalism to compete for ratings.

The correction should be sensationalism...is. I don't see how the use of are is incorrect. What's wrong with the sentence above?


The subject is Sensationalism. Everything between sensationalism and is is modifier on Sensationalism:

What kind of sensationalism? ... Sensationalism in television shows.
What kind of television shows? ... Television shows masquerading as "news" programs.

It is the sensationalism in those shows which makes things difficult for serious journalists.

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  • Sensationalism in television shows masquerading as "news" programs is making it difficult for serious journalism to compete for ratings. In this sentence, the verb should be "is" because the subject is singular. Please correct me if I mentioned wrong – Avid Programmer Nov 13 '19 at 10:32

The subject of the sentence is the first word: "Sensationalism". This is a singular noun, so the verb "is" fits.

The reason "are" sounds right is because the object of the prepositional phrase "in television shows" as well as the predicate of the modifying clause "masquerading as 'news' programs" are both plural. However, the real subject is "sensationalism", with which the verb must agree.

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  • could programs be the verb that agrees with are? – user8959 Aug 6 '14 at 18:25
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    No. There can only be one verb in a clause. Clauses don't have to "agree" grammatically, but it is good practice to match the tense and voice of verbs in compound sentences. This is not a compound sentence. There is one independent clause "Sensationalism is" with one dependent clause in the subject and another in the predicate. It is very confusing. – Austin Mullins Aug 6 '14 at 18:32
  • what's the dependent clause? – user8959 Aug 6 '14 at 18:35
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    In the subject: Shows masquerading as news programs. In the predicate: making it difficult to compete for ratings. I don't know, the gerund form of the verbs might classify them as phrases. – Austin Mullins Aug 6 '14 at 18:42
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    @Ben -- your mistake is "natural", and shows that your grasp of subject/verb agreement is becoming fluent. Most native speakers have to be taught this lesson in elementary school, because they might not learn it on their own. – Jasper Aug 7 '14 at 2:18

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