There’s nothing like a good verb to really get a sentence going. Verbs like titillate, saunter, sizzle, clutch, ensnare, wither, or glisten are fun to write and enjoyable to read. The problem that some students have is when they write a sentence with the verb at a distance from their subject.
For example, perhaps the sentence is “I, in spite of dangers, toils, and snares, am going to the store.” They think that the word “snares” is the word that needs the verb, so they write “I, in spite of dangers, toils, and snares, are going to the store.” Nope. Not in this woman’s language.
The thing to do when your subject and verb are far removed from one another is to pretend that all of the words in the middle aren’t there. Take them out, temporarily, and write “I….am going to the store.” You wouldn’t say “I are going to the store.” At least, you wouldn’t do it if you want a good grade.
Another subject/verb challenge is when students believe that they need a comma between whatever noun they have and the word “is.” I don’t know what misguided English teacher wannabe told them that, but the answer is “no, a thousand times, no.” In the earlier sentence that I used as an example, the prepositional phrase “in spite of dangers, toils, and snares” acted like a parenthetical expression. Hence, the need for the commas. The students, on the other hand, write something like “The reason, is between you and me.” No, please.
Most recently, I had some students who thought that periods were excess baggage and that the word “I” never needed a capital letter. But those nails-on-a-chalkboard errors will have to wait for another time.