Of all of the languages spoken around the world, the language with the most words is English. The most recent version of the Oxford English dictionary has 171,476 current words used in the English language. So it’s not surprising to know that English speakers have countless words to use when forming sentences or engaging in dialogue.

A complete sentence is created only when there is a subject and a verb. In other words, there must be both a person, place or thing as the subject along with an action; what the subject is doing. A sentence must have both a subject and a verb. Otherwise, it is a phrase, which is a group of words clustered together.

With all of the words available in the English language, it’s no surprise that speakers use added words to clarify or give additional information. Intervening phrases are used to give specific information about the subject. The intervening phrase is inserted between the subject and verb.

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Intervening Phrases

An intervening phrase is a group of words, not a complete sentence, that is added between the subject and verb of a sentence. This group of words often adds information or clarifies; however, it does not change the subject-verb agreement. Intervening phrases often use prepositions such as to, for, with, including and together. When these words are added to a phrase it is often referred to as an intervening clause.

Here are a few examples of an intervening phrase:

  • The collection of antique vases is very valuable.
  • In this case, the intervening phrase is of antique vases.

  • The neighborhood’s new policy on pet limitations was highly controversial.

  • In this case, the intervening phrase is on pet limitations.

In both examples, the intervening expressions are added to clarify exactly what the sentence is about. In the first example, the intervening phrase clarifies which collection the sentence is referring to. In the second example, the intervening words are added to specify which neighborhood policy is controversial.

Intervening Words and Agreement

It is important to make sure you can decipher between the actual subject of the sentence and the intervening words. You should always make sure you do not mistake the intervening words for the subject of the sentence. This is important because if you identify the wrong word as the subject, your subject-verb agreement will be wrong.

Using the examples above, in the first sentence, the subject is collection, not vases. Correct subject-verb agreement would be: The collection is valuable. However, if you mistook the subject of the sentence as the word vases, you’d likely want to say: The collection of antique vases are very valuable.

However, this subject-verb agreement is incorrect. The same applies for the second example. Again, the subject of the sentence is policy. The correct subject-verb agreement in this sentence is the policy was controversial.

Again, if you mistake the subject in this sentence to be limitations, you would have incorrect agreement if you said: The neighborhood’s new policy on pet limitations were highly controversial. In this case, the word limitations is not the subject of the sentence.

Intervening Words

Additional words that can serve as intervening words include: well, plus, with, like, in addition to, together with and including. Examples of intervening phrases with these words include:

  • Bart, including his brother, is going abroad next year.
  • The councilwoman, together with her assistants, is attending the conference next year.
  • His overnight suitcases, plus his computer bag, were all stolen from the holding area.

Always check and double check your subject-verb agreement when using intervening phrases. A key way to do this is to remove the intervening words from the sentence and make sure the actual subject of the sentence agrees with the verb. If not, you need to change the verb to make sure it agrees with the subject. Remember, the intervening words are not the subject.

Things Needed

  • Literacy

About the Author

Melanie Forstall has a doctorate in education and has worked in the field of education for over 20 years. She has been a teacher, grant writer, program director, and higher education instructor. She is a freelance writer specializing in education, and education related content. She writes for We Are Teachers, School Leaders Now, Classroom, Pocket Sense, local parenting magazines, and other professional academic outlets. Additionally, she has co-authored book chapters specializing in providing services for students with disabilities.