1

Having an argument with my SO.

Participant 1 believes this is the correct way to structure the sentence:

I'm learning how to do things in a way that serves me.

Participant 1 thinks that the verb, 'serve' should be 'serves' because 'way' modifies the verb and acts as the subject.

Participant 2 believes this is the correct way to structure the sentence:

I'm learning how to do things in a way that serve me.

Participant 2 thinks 'serve' should remain 'serve' because the subject is 'things', and 'in a way' should be excluded when determining subject-verb agreement because it's a prepositional phrase. And if you exclude the prepositional phrase from the sentence, it reads 'I'm learning to do things that serve me.'

Which is the correct subject-verb agreement?

  • 1
    The subject is not things. The subject is way, which is singular. You can tell this because that serves me is a relative clause, and they follow their antecedent, which refers to the relative pronoun. In this case, that relative pronoun is that, which is the subject of that serves me. – John Lawler Jan 15 at 5:37
  • Yes @JohnLawler; agree with you. – Ram Pillai Jan 15 at 7:41
1

I'm learning. (base)
I'm learning how to do things. (adjective phrase)
I'm learning how to do things in a way. (adjective phrase)
I'm learning how to do things in a way that serves me. (adjective clause)

"a way that serves me." is the important part of the sentence.
"that" is a relative pronoun.
the antecedent for "that" is the adjacent noun, "a way".
"a way" is a singular noun.

a way serves me. // correct
a way serve me.

NOTE
If you want to try and say that "that serves me" modifies "things", then you would have:
I'm learning how to do things that serve me. // ok. "things" is plural. but wait...
I'm learning how to do things that serve me in a way. // grammatically correct. The antecedent for "that" is now plural, "things". But the dangling prepositional phrase, "in a way", does not make logical sense.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.