Britney Spears and Two Agreement Errors

June 12, 2006

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood have taken their toll on her good spirits.

This sentence contains two errors: one in subject/verb agreement and one in pronoun/antecedent agreement. When correlative conjunctions, such as "neither" and "nor," are used in a sentence, the subject closer to the verb and the referent pronoun determines the number of those words. Crossing off everything from "neither" to "nor" may help in identifying the subject:

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood have taken their toll on her good spirits.

Now that the first part of the subject has been crossed off, it is clear that the subject of the clause is "motherhood," which is singular, and that the verb ("have taken") and the referent pronoun ("their") are plural. Change the number of the verb and the referent pronoun so that they are in agreement with the subject of the clause.

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood has taken its toll on her good spirits.

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