General Writing and Grammar Help/Subject Verb Agreement

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Question
I am having difficulty with subject verb agreement in the following sentence (specifically, if "echoes" is proper):

"The sound of footsteps echoes off solid pavement."


I am not sure if this should read as: "The sounds of footsteps echo off solid pavement", "The sound of footsteps echo off solid pavement", or "The sounds of footsteps echoes off solid pavement".

Please help! The more I read over my possibilities, the more confused I become!

Thank you.

Answer
The easy part first:

Incorrect:  The sounds of footsteps echoes off solid pavement.  

What I like to call the skeleton of the sentence is:
Sounds (subject) echoes (verb)

Your ear has alerted you that this can't be right (subject is plural and verb is singular!).

~~

A lot of people have the problem you have identified with your sentence choices here.  

The thorn is =of footsteps=.  

On first glance, =footsteps= appears to be the subject of the sentence.  It falls just before the verb, too!

Unfortunately, =footsteps= is NOT the subject.  

It is part of a prepositional phrase.  =Of= is the preposition, and =footsteps= is the object of the preposition.  The object of a preposition does not control the verb, so the subject has to be some other word.

If we remove =of footsteps=, it's easier to see what the subject actually is:

The sound echoes off solid pavement.
Skeleton:
Sound echoes.

Now it's obvious what the subject is and what form of the verb is needed.

~~

So many people trip on this.   You're not alone!

~~

Another example:

A group of us are going to the movies. [incorrect]

=Us= is the object of the preposition =of=.  =Us= is NOT the subject!  =Group= is the subject!  That's why the verb must be =is=:

A group of us is going to the movies.  [correct!]

~~

In the future, if you are confused, remove the prepositional phrase to reveal the true subject.
mb  

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