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The Significant Grammatical Error Subject Verb Agreement English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 4864 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Writing is no ordinary assignment and it requires one to have inclusive skills to construct a high quality of work. The mechanism of writing comprises the grammar, sentence structure and also, the organization of the writing. However, these skills are threatening the students’ performances in their writing task as most of them, do not relate the concept they have learned in their writing.

As students attain their tertiary level of education, they are requires to generate further written materials such essays, reports, commentaries etc.. These requirements also must be in English language as English language is the core language for communication and to guide the students to get used to using the English language at their place of work.

To be precise, the native speakers of Malay language are the largely significant group that imply the discussed predicament. According to their essays, most of them are prone to produce error in grammar and explicitly, subject-verb agreement. These essays are gathered from their semester examination and a study is conducted. Through the analysis, it has been found that the students have a major fault with the usage of subject-verb agreement.

The result for this study is not fundamentally for the sake of the error itself, but, a scheme for students’ understandings and improved teaching methods. Eventually, this will also help in enhancing the English language amongst the students.

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The topic about subject-verb agreement is chosen because of its significance in writings. Without a proper rules of subject-verb agreement, the ideas in writing in difficult to convey and thus, worsen the value of writing itself. Any mistakes regarding the subject-verb agreement will definitely change the meaning of the sentence. Moreover, the research among the tertiary level students is interesting, because, though they have achieved to a higher education, most of them still, could not apply the correct rules of this grammar. This main issue will be discussed further in this research.

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In addition, most students are complaining about the errors they make in writings, mainly subject-verb agreement. The simple definition of the subject verb agreement is as simple as a subject agreeing with a verb. If the singular subject is used, the singular verb is obligatory and same goes with the plural subject that is plural verb respectively. This simple rule of grammar makes the mistakes produced by the students clearly visible.

During the study of the students’ writings, they tend to make mistakes in general rules and the sub rule in subject-verb agreement. Moreover, upon looking of the students’ errors, this research also includes the remedial actions that need to be approached to the students in order to improve the problems of the students in using the correct subject-verb agreement in their writings.


The study was conducted on Year 2 students in MARA College of Banting whom are taking International Baccalaureate Diploma programme for 2009 / 2011 batch session. Even though, the Malaysian education system announced that English as a Second Language (ESL), most of the subjects use English language as their medium of communication.

Primarily, the scope of the study is focused on the grammatical error produced by the students in their writings based on the students’ examination papers. Eventually, the study is narrowed to more specific type of grammatical error that is the subject-verb agreement due to its frequency of error is the highest.


The problem arose when there were complaints from teachers about the students’ English performance English Semester Two examination paper. The teachers were commenting on about the students’ English essays. Although the students had achieved good results, namely in English 1119 in Malaysia Education Certificate which is known as Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), the students are still producing some grammatical errors in their essays.

Therefore, the research is carried out to study the problem of the students in their English essays and the most significant error they had produced. In order to arrive to the conclusion of this study, error analysis is used as an indicator to enable the significant error to be detected.


Based on the statement of the problem, the study is focused on the students’ most common grammatical errors in their writing production. It is noted that the written production was analyzed based on their English essay in Semester Two examination paper.

The objectives of this study are:

To investigate the most significant grammatical error produced by the students in the English essays.

To identify the reasons for the error occurrence.

To find solution to improve the error in writing among students.


The research question of this study is linked to three important aspects: writing, error analysis and grammar that will be narrowed down to subject-verb agreement as the most significant error. Therefore, the research question is constructed based on these three main components.

“Is subject-verb agreement the most significant grammatical error produced by the student of MARA College of Banting of 2009/2011 batch session in their writings?”

Moreover, the research topic is chosen originally of personal interest. I have become concerned about the complaints from the English teachers about the students’ grammar. Therefore, this research topic of subject-verb agreement will be examined thoroughly.


The importance of the research as follows:

To help the students to identify their significant grammatical error in writing the English essay and helping them to overcome the flaws in writing English.

To aid the students to produce a quality English essays in the future.

To help the teachers, explicitly in English Department by aiding them to create a suitable framework for the students in the teaching methods.


The scope of the study will be centralized on the subject-verb agreement errors in writing of the students in MARA College of Banting of 2009 / 2011 batch session. These students represent the tertiary level students and their grammar usage of subject-verb agreement.




Essay writing (Koch) is conducted to the students so that they can affix diverse fundamentals of course and extend the insightful by going beyond what is educated in the class. Moreover, writing an essay is in fact a production of sovereignty to convey opinions by the students or the author themselves. They have to work in the constraints and, accordingly, they should have an apt familiarity on how to present and communicate their ideas in understandable and efficient performance.


“Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason.” 

Richard C. Trench [1] 

According to Richard C. Trench, the use of grammar is very important in depicting the value of the language and the judgment towards the ideas. The use of grammar also reflects the author’s writing skill and it will give the reader an indication of the content in the written production will be like. On whole, the logic of language depends completely on its grammar usage. In addition, the grammatical error can give a reader a bad impression of the author’s abilities. The higher degree of grammar usage in English produces more quality of works. Though nobody’s grammar is perfect, grammar teaches an author to control the language they are using. If the grammar is strictly controlled with firm and strong basic knowledge, a good work of essay will be produced.


As writing required strong and firm sentences to create understanding in the essay, the basic of grammar, basically, subject needs to agree with the verb. If the author fails to apply the tool in writing, they can make reading more difficult as well as to convey the ideas. Same thing that is overlooked, the common error is that of incorrect use of the subject and verb agreement. Verb [2] is the most important part of a sentence. These two parts are correlated as the subject is the main topic of the sentence; it has to be matched with verb. For instance,

Julia and Megan are going to the cinema today.

Mother wants to cook chicken soup for me.

These two examples follow the rules of subject-verb agreement. Julia and Megan is the plural subject, and the verb used is ‘are’. While the second sentence follows the same rule, mother is the singular subject and ‘wants’ as its verb. Henceforth, authors and writer need to master this rule in order to write effectively and convey their message clearly.

This topic is also agreed by Surina Nayan (August, 2009) in her research on A Study of Subject-Verb Agreement: From Novice Writer to Expert Writers [3] . In her research, the students have difficulties in subject-verb agreement because, in their L1 which is Malay language, they do not have such rules of subject needs to agree with verb. In the long run, mother tongue of the student affects the performance of English grammar.


However, even after an approximate 11 years of formal English education in school, majority of the students tend to produce most subject-verb agreement error in their writing. Error in writing happens when there is a change in the language. After reviewing the students’ writings, and receiving complaints from teachers, it is necessary to conduct an analysis regarding the error produced by the students. In academic context, error analysis will help the student to improve their lack in grammatical usage efficiently. The consideration to error type and an understanding of the misuse of specific grammar rules proposes teachers a means of helping students to deal with language and usage problems (Ho, 2003). Then, the students can attain their remedy through the research.




In this section, the procedures of collecting the data are disclosed. It consists of the procedures that are related with the analysis of the data.


This study involved a random sampling of 45 students among the second year students in MARA College of Banting. The students in the college are receiving the scholarship to study abroad. Overall, the students have a good education background from their previous achievements. These students were chosen at random from the Medicine, Biotechnology and Engineering streams.


In order to find the students significant error in their writings, 45 students’ essays were reviewed. The essays were based from their Semester 2 examination. All of the students are taking English B Higher Level for their International Baccalaureate final examinations in May 2011. The examination scripts were marked by the teachers also has included the teacher’s comments on the students’ errors.

Apart from that, two different sets of questionnaires were also distributed to the students and teachers in continuance of the opinion from them about the writing trends by providing the quantitative data. The questionnaires are set to create the awareness to the students and also their responses in the respective study. The teachers were also given the questionnaire to give a clearer indication in this problem of writing among the students prior to their experiences in teaching English language.


To begin with, the students chosen were asked for their Semester 2 examination paper, especially their English writing in Paper 2. After compiling all the paper from the students, the papers were then checked and identified for the errors done by the students. The feedbacks and comments from the teacher’s notes were recorded as well. It follows that, after, the study of the students’ paper is done, and every significant error made by the students is verified.

With the reference from the teachers marking scheme, this study has been set into few parameters to ease to the focused topic research that is the grammatical error specifically in writing . The scheme is used as a guide to gather the error made by the students. The marking scheme of the writing essay is obtained from the teacher (Refer Appendix 1).

Besides, in this study of the written production by the students, the three major components that are taken into account in order to justify the most significant error in the students’ essay are:

a. Grammatical error

b. Vocabulary

c. Spelling

d. Paragraph structure

In the wider quality of the writing production of the students, the identification of the grammatical error in their writing productions is focused. The grammatical errors are classified into: noun ending, articles, verb tenses, verb forms and subject-verb agreement. These findings are observed and, the results are recorded.




In this chapter, the main idea that will be focused on is about processing the data collection from 49 of the students’ essay writings. The results of the data are constructed relatively to the aim of the research.

What is the most significant grammatical error composed by the students in their English essays?

Why the students are tend to produce the error?


Based on the objectives of this investigation, after 45 essays are monitored, the errors are classified on the grammar errors, vocabulary, spelling and also, their paragraph structure. However, looking into deeper insight of the writing skills among the students, the specific error that is mainly focused is their grammatical errors. This is due to students produced their original writing of ideas during their examinations without having any references. As to that, it is easier to recognize the factors that are affecting them.

In order to find the common mistakes produced by the students, 10 questionnaires (Refer Appendix 2) have been distributed among the English language teachers as to response to the objective of this investigation. This survey had been distributed to the teachers in the month of September 2010. The bar chart shows the number of teacher and their responses.


The graph shows the number of English language in MARA College of Banting teachers and their feedbacks on the students’ writing skill in their semester 2 examinations paper.

Based on the bar chart, the most significant aspect is that the usage of the grammar. It is responded by majority of six teachers. Then, it is followed by four teachers who voted as satisfactory. However, by the frequency of good, very good and excellent, there are no votes for grammatical error. The other aspect for vocabulary is voted by two teachers to be an unsatisfactory grade. But, it more teachers voting’s lead to satisfactory and the highest five votes from teachers are accumulated in good grade. This shows that the teachers have found out most of the students’ flaws in their writings are grammatical error.

Therefore, after accumulating the votes from the teacher as the sophisticated users, 45 questionnaires were also distributed to the students (Refer Appendix 3). This refers to question number 19, asking on the students’ personal opinion about their grammar performances.


Number of students

Percentage %

“I’m not certain whether my English grammar is a problem for my writing”



“My English grammar problems are exceedingly severe and spoil my writing”



“Though I don’t know much regarding English grammar, it’s not a serious problem for me”



“English grammar is not really a serious subject for me. Other writing issues are more vital.”






Table Percentage of the students’ statement in grammar.

The Table 1 above shows the statements chosen by the 45 chosen students, the number of the student’s responses and their percentage in each statement.

Based on the statements made by 45 students in this study, the highest percentage of 35.56 percent out of the 45 students stated that they are not really sure whether their English grammar is a problem for them. It is followed by 26.66 percent of the students stated that their English grammar problems are very serious and hurt their writing. The third highest percentage is 22.22 percent that the students thinks that though they don’t know much about English grammar, they think it is not a serious problem for them. Subsequently, the lowest percentage is only 15.56 percent that stated by seven students. They claimed that the English grammar is not a serious issue for them; however, they think that there are other important issue that harm their writing production.

From the surveyed, predominantly, most of the students are still unaware of their grammar error especially in writing.


Throughout the findings of the students’ error in their writing production, it is obviously shown that grammar error is the main flaws that hurt their writing performance. Looking deeper into this study, their writing scripts were also analysed based on the type of grammar mistakes that they tend to repeat. With regard to that, the grammar errors produced by the students are classified to: noun ending, articles, verb tenses, verb forms and subject-verb agreement.

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The students’ writing scripts were analyzed for their error. Their marked writing scripts done by the teachers have eased the calculation of the students’ errors. The first step of this calculation is each of every error in the scripts is calculated and accumulated. After that each of the type of error is counted upon the whole error. The percentage of the type of error done by the students cum the respondents of MARA College Banting is shown in the bar chart in Figure 2.


The Graph 2 shows the percentage of the type of error done by the students in MARA College of Banting in their writing production in Semester 2 examinations.

According to the Graph 2, the highest error produced by the students is subject-verb agreement which recorded to be 51.78 percent. Then, it is followed by noun ending with only 17.42 percent. The bar chart decreases to 12.14 percent as article error. Subsequently, verb tense and verb form are only in a small percentage of 9.66 percent and 9 percent respectively.

However, there is also small portion of error produced by the students in the phrasal construction as well as their word choices.


In this segment, the discussion is extent to the respond of the question in part 4.0:

b) Why the students are tend to produce the error?


As observed in the bar chart in Figure 2, the highest percentage of type of error produced by the students is subject-verb agreement which recorded as 51.78 percent. The percentage is more than 50 percent therefore; it can be a significant error by the students in

their writing productions.

To the amount of the highest percentage of subject-verb agreement in the students’ writing production, there are some of examples of the usage if the subject-verb agreement error from the students.

By referring to table 2, there are some of the error in the sentences produced by the KMB students in their essays.


Identification of the error in students’ writings

The correct usage of the SVA aspect


Everybody are feeling so excited about the class trip this weekend.

Everybody is feeling so excited about the Sports Carnival this weekend.


Therefore, it show that most of the students are attracted to study abroad

Therefore, it shows that most of the students are attracted to study abroad.


She is the secretary who write the report for the meeting.

She is the secretary who writes the report for the meeting.


Five years are the minimum duration to study medicine.

Five years is the minimum duration to study medicine.


Neither Sarah nor Jasmine are going to the park with me.

Neither Sarah nor Jasmine is going to the park with me.


Only few was there to watch the show.

Only few were there to watch the show.


The quantity of working women, who is earning higher than men, is increasing recently.

The quantity of working women, who are earning higher than men, is increasing recently.


They do not realize how important the usage of technology are…

They do not realize how important the usage of technology is..

Table 2 Error produced by the students in the essays.

Based on the Table 2e, from the examples (1) to (8), it can be observed that most of the students encountered the error in subject verb agreement. These errors will be further discussed to identify rules in subject-verb agreement and giving the guidelines to correct them.

The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone, and no one are singular and require a singular verb. (Chris Berry) [4] 

*Everybody are feeling so excited about the class trip this weekend.

Correct sentence: Everybody is ….

* Neither Sarah nor Jasmine are going to the park with me.

Correct sentence: Neither Sarah nor Jasmine is ….

Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and news require singular verbs. (Chris Berry)

* Five years are the minimum duration to study medicine.

Correct sentence: Five years is ….

According to the error produced by the students, it can be stated that the students have more propensity in making error in the common rules of the subject verb agreement. This may be due to preventing themselves to use the sub-rule of the subject verb agreement. Based on the error produced by the students are chiefly completed under the general rule of the subject verb agreement.

Apart from that, it is because of the interference of the Malay language that does not have any specific rule in the usage of singular or plural form of subject verb agreement. Besides, the students tend to construct the sentence structures upon their Malay language experience that create faulty in their essays. Again, it is concluded that the mother tongue of the students, mainly Malay language inhibit the progression of the English language of the students.

In addition to this discussion, these subject and verb are the two main mechanisms in developing accurate and absolute sentence in English essays, so, as to this, the students need to be alert of the significance of the subject verb agreement usage. Therefore, the students need to be recognizable with this framework of the study. The students should be conceded that every subject verb agreement rules are vital in writing English essays, so that they have variations in phrase of words, mode and registration used to explicate. As a result, the effort of writing of the students will be more eminence and agreeable to be read.




In this chapter 5, we will be discussing about the overall of the conclusion and the recommendation of this study.


Ultimately, after looking upon the students’ examination scripts for their writing production, it can be concluded that the most of the students tend to produce most error in their subject-verb agreement. Apparently the conclusion is also, based on the questionnaires that had been distributed among the students and the teachers as well. The significant analysis shows that, the research question is undoubtedly true.

The main reason the students were producing error in subject-verb agreement is because; they do not have an inmost knowledge of this rules in grammar component. Most of the students were uncertain about the verb and the subject in writing their essays.

However, we can also state that, they are learning English because it is one of the compulsory components that the students need to achieve in the education system in Malaysia as ESL. Moreover, most of the students here are using Malay language in daily conversation. In fact, in Malay language, the language system does not have specific rules of the plural and singular as in English grammar, especially in context of subject-verb agreement. When the students were asked, about the type of language they are using as thinking to write an essay, most of the students apply Malay language and trying to translate their sentences in English. This could be one of the reasons why the errors in subject-verb agreement among students are obvious and inhibit the grammar development among the students as the students rely highly upon the Malay language.

Furthermore, based on the survey from the questionnaires, the students are lack of practice on their writing skills because, they said, it needs time to work on one essay. Subsequently, the students are also, have lack on the general knowledge and surveys showed that only 9 out of 49 students will spend their time reading non-academic books. Big portions of 80 percent of the students do not practice the reading culture. This could lead to the improper building of good sentences and a well flow of ideas in their essay.

Their lack of knowledge on the system of the language and unsatisfactory terminology that the students had reflected to a certain extent the comportment they were educated, the learners’ approach and their learning strategies in the whole learning development. Even if these would mean that there is a need to perform a further study, the subsequent opinions on how a number of students would like their English class to be taught, give the teachers diverse notion on their outlook on the road to learning English in MARA College of Banting.


This section is based from the vote in the questionnaire form that is distributed to the students in order to enhance their usage and understanding in subject-verb agreement.

Students should have their own scheme to have further knowledge in the English language. This may be done through wide-ranging reading English text materials such as books, magazines and etc. The action is then can be adopted to the real purpose, verbal or written. This technique is voted to enhance the skill of the students in English language.

The learning process of grammar should be taught constantly though the students have already reached their college levels. They should have a strong knowledge in grammar rules to make certain that the students can submit an application in their essays.

The students should be prone to more English programme such as an English workshop to provide more familiar connection with the language. This sort of programme would benefit on the evaluation to the students.


To classify the targeted group of the study into “weak” and “good” students with their background family information.

To study and analyzed the teaching process and the methods used by the lecturers or the teacher to approach the students in English language.

Giving more exercises to the students based on the criteria needed and record the marks to compare them.



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