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Sentence Correction: Subject Verb Agreement Questions - Overview

The ongoing debate as to whether Pluto and its satellite, Charon, comprise a double dwarf planet system or a planet and its moon was settled following the discovery that the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass lie outside of Pluto.

Incorrect.

Although this answer choice is grammatically correct, it is illogical and radically changes the meaning of the original sentence by replacing the word following with the words and led to.  The new meaning damages the original sentence's logic - because it is far more logical to say that the debate was settled based on the discovery that the mass are outside of Pluto (i.e., based on evidence), than to say that the debate led to this discovery.

[[snippet]]

Incorrect.

This answer choice is grammatically incorrect. The plural subject the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass does not agree with the singular verb lies.

What helps us identify this question as a Subject Verb Agreement question and detect this mistake is the following Stop Sign:

A plural subject made up of singular nouns connected by and

[[snippet]]

Incorrect.

This answer choice is grammatically incorrect. The singular subject The ongoing debate does not agree with the plural verb were.

What helps us identify this question as a Subject Verb Agreement question and detect this mistake is the following Stop Sign:

A long complex subject / long distance between subject and verb

[[snippet]]

Note that the change of wording (comprise -> arelie -> are) does not affect the correctness of this answer choice. Not every change of wording is also a change of meaning.

Incorrect.

This answer choice is grammatically incorrect. The plural subject Pluto and its satellite, Charon does not agree with the singular verb comprises.

What helps us identify this question as a Subject Verb Agreement question and detect this mistake is the following Stop Sign:

A plural subject made up of singular nouns connected by and

[[snippet]]

Well done!

This answer choice correctly matches the following subjects and verbs in its various sub-clauses:

1 - the singular subject ongoing debate is correctly matched with the singular verb was (settled);

2 - the plural subject Pluto and its satellite, Charon with is correctly matched with the plural verb comprise;

3 - the plural subject the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass is correctly matched with the plural verb lie (outside of Pluto).

Note the sentence's main clause is no. 1: The ongoing debate...was settled. Clause no. 2 is nested within the main clause.

comprise a double dwarf planet system or a planet and its moon was settled following the discovery that the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass lie
comprises a double dwarf planet system or a planet and its moon was settled following the discovery that the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass lie
are a double dwarf planet system or a planet and its moon were settled following the discovery that the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass are
comprise a double dwarf planet system or a planet and its moon was settled following the discovery that the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass lies
are a double dwarf planet system or a planet and its moon was settled and led to the discovery that the system's center of mass and a significant portion of its mass lie