While discussing a piece of scientific writing today, I was confused about the subject (and therefore the singular/plural state) of this sentence.

The presence of very high cell densities in the embryoid body outgrowths makes accurate quantitation of adipogenesis difficult.

What is the subject in this sentence? Is it "presence" or "densities"? What are some rules that I can use to determine the subject of similar sentences?


Remove the prepositional phrase of very high cell densities in the embryoid body outgrowths from the sentence and what is the subject? That word is still the subject with the prepositional phrase in the sentence.

In addition, which word (presence or densities) shows subject-verb agreement? Makes is used for third person singular nouns.

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Ditto AlanCarmack. In general, when searching for a subject or verb, it is ofteen helpful to drop out qualifying words and phrases. Drop any adjectives or adverbs, and then any phrase that starts with a preposition, like "of ...", "to ...", "for ..." etc. What's left should be the "heart" of the sentence.

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