I am reading SAT sentence correction tips and I can not get my head around the tip "Verb-Subject Mismatch" . What does it mean?

  • 1
    Add the sentence in concern; we'd have a better idea to address this question precisely.
    – Maulik V
    Sep 9, 2015 at 6:53
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    IMO, it is related with subject-verb agreement.
    – Rucheer M
    Sep 9, 2015 at 7:38
  • Examples can help you understand the topic. Mention examples in this question (if you have any) to get the precise idea about this topic from native speakers.
    – Rucheer M
    Sep 9, 2015 at 7:41
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    Hi Raj! Welcome to ELL. It's a good idea to wait for a few days before selecting an answer - You might get an even better one! People might not want to write you another answer if you have already selected one :-) Sep 9, 2015 at 10:51

2 Answers 2


SAT tests are produced by poor, misguided souls who know nothing about language and try to make language conform to the irregularities of their own ideas. Very importantly for any language learner taking a SAT test, you need to understand that these tests are not designed for language learners. They are designed to trip up native speakers. To do a SAT test well, you need to understand what dumb ideas about grammar SAT testers have. Then you need to try and see which dumb idea fits the question that you're looking at and then show which answer the examiner thinks is wrong - even if it's perfectly correct.

Verb-Subject Mismatch has been given as a tip because of a dumb idea that SAT examiners have about Subject-verb agreement. SAT examiners believe that the grammatical number of the Subject (whether the Subject has a singular or plural noun phrase) decides whether the verb should have a plural or singular form. Consider this example:

  1. The board has all now had their one-to-one meetings with the CEO.
  2. The board have all now had their one-to-one meetings with the CEO.

In real English, the second sentence is better than the first. The reason is that we are thinking about the board as a group of individuals. In real English, it is the notional number of the Subject that is important. It is how we are thinking about the Subject that decides whether we use singular or plural verb agreement. In the fantasy world of SAT English, sentence number (2) is wrong. Their theory is that the board is singular and therefore we need the singular form has instead of the plural form have, as in the first example. However, any native speaker who can understand what good English is, will tell you that number (1) is an awful sentence.

Now, I've chosen examples that show exactly how bad the SAT thinking is. But you are unlikely to see a sentence that makes an outright mockery of their idiot version of English grammar in public. So what you will find is that you will be faced with a good grammatical sentence which you need to "correct". You need to watch out for ones where the technical number of the Subject is not reflected in the verb form.

Don't get angry about this! Don't get depressed! It's actually very good fun spotting what mad problems SAT testers see in different sentences!

Remember golden rule number two of any exams like SAT, TEFL, TOEFL and so forth:

Give the monkeys what they want!

  • 1
    Well said! Explanation is awesome...
    – Rucheer M
    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:37
  • As far as your second example being better in real life, that depends on dialect. In my dialect (and I think to most other American speakers), we'd normally treat the board as a singular entity, and would quite naturally say "The board has received...". No so coincidentally, the SAT is written by Americans.
    – Karen
    Sep 9, 2015 at 13:17
  • @Karen Under most circumstances "The board has ..." would be preferred by a majority of Americans and British speakers would be quite partial to that too.... (cont) Sep 9, 2015 at 13:38
  • @Karen .... However, A), there are many American speakers who would also say "The board have".. But more importantly, B): in actual fact it depends on the rest of the predicate. So if the sentence is "The board has all now had their one-to-one meeting with the CEO", this is just plainly poor English. Because the predicate involves a sense of them each doing something individually, we need a singular verb form to reflect the individuation: "The board have all now had their one-to-one meeting with the CEO" Sep 9, 2015 at 13:39
  • @Karen So point taken (and indeed seconded!) about the American preference for using singular verb forms for collective nouns. However, it isn't a grammatical rule, and secondly there are many instances where it is just poor English to follow this 'rule'. (CGEL write about this in some depth). Nice observation though :-) Sep 9, 2015 at 13:42

The subject and the verb cannot go together due to a number problem.

ex. "They is walking". has a verb-subject mismatch.

They is plural (more than one) so the sentence should say "They are walking".

  • They isn't always plural. Like in this : "Where's Michael?" "They're at the shopping centre." Sep 9, 2015 at 8:52
  • @RileyFrancisco Interesting! Will you give me the source having more examples for this? I haven't gone through this before.
    – Rucheer M
    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:39
  • @RuchirM, english.stackexchange.com/questions/48/…
    – Karen
    Sep 9, 2015 at 13:21
  • Regardless of whether "they" is singular or plural, the verb would be conjugated as if plural. Sep 10, 2015 at 9:57

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