Subject-Verb Agreement Isn’t Always Easy

The editor in my brain is always on duty. So I paid attention when a red light flashed in my head after I’d read this claim in a private school ad in the New York Times Magazine:

A boarding arts high school, where the best in academic and arts education go hand-in-hand.

Did you spot the mistake? I don’t mean the sentence fragment – that’s OK in an ad, especially if it’s acting as a headline or attention-getter.

The problem is subject-verb agreement. (Click here and read Rule 4). The subject is “best,” so the verb should be “goes”:

A boarding arts high school, where the best in academic and arts education goes hand-in-hand.  CORRECT

But that “hand-in-hand” creates a new problem. First, the sentence sounds wrong. You’re expecting go, not goes (unless you’re an English teacher.) More seriously, the new sentence doesn’t make sense. How can one thing (best) go hand-in-hand? It’s nonsensical.

Sentences like these are the reason my husband sometimes catches me staring blankly at the computer screen. I know what I want to say, but this @#$%&! English language won’t let me say it.

I have no idea how you could fix that sentence about the boarding arts high school. Does that mean that my Ph.D. in English is going to be revoked?

What you’d have to do is figure out how to make “best” plural: best experiences, best instructors, best resources…something like that.

Gee whiz, though…if you’re running an expensive private school, please get the grammar right. Or do what I always do: Throw out the sentence and start over.



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