Subject and verb agreement
Most verbs describe actions, so they are called action verbs. Action verbs tell what people or things are doing.
— drink, eat, laugh, look, jump, shout, walk, run, sit, swim, throw, catch, fall, climb, dance…
Subject and verb agreement
When you use a verb, you have to say who or what is doing the action. This ‘who or what’ is the subject of the verb.
The subject and the verb match each other. You say that the subject and the verb agree when they match each other.
Use a singular verb if the subject is a singular noun. For example, the subjects ‘my dad’ or ‘our school’, or any of the pronouns he, she or it, require a singular verb. Most singular verbs end in s.
Look at the subjects and their verbs in these examples. The subjects are in blue color and the verbs are in red color.
He always drinks milk when he’s hot.
She eats bananas for breakfast.
Mom walks to work every day.
My sister dances like a professional dancer.
The baby falls when she tries to walk.
Our cat climbs the trees in our garden.
This form of the verb is called the third person singular. You use it when the subject of the verb is not you or the person you are speaking to, but some other person—a third person—or a thing.
Here are some more third person singular verbs that end in s.
— plays, draws, reads, sings, paints, rains, shines, blows, travels, rides, thinks, talks, smiles, stops, starts…
The third person singular form of some verbs is made by adding es at the end. Some examples are verbs that end in sh, ch, ss, x, zz and o.
— brushes, rushes, polishes, crashes, washes, watches, reaches, teaches, catches, touches, kisses, fixes, misses, mixes, passes, buzzes, presses, does, dresses, goes…
Here are some sentences with verbs in their third person singular form. The subjects are in bold and blue color and the verbs are in red color.
She always brushes her teeth at bedtime.
Dad polishes his shoes until they shine.
My brother watches television after school.
Kim catches the ball with one hand.
Dad mixes our and water when he makes bread.
The bee buzzes around the owers.
My friend Sanjay goes to the same school as I do.
How do you make the third person singular form of most verbs that end in y? Usually, you just change the y to an i and then add es.
— carry – carries – cry – cries – study – studies – hurry – hurries – worry – worries – copy – copies marry – marries – bully – bullies…
A cat carries its kitten with its mouth.
Mr. Chen hurries to work every morning.
The baby cries a lot at night.
This plane flies to the island every day.
Alice tries hard at school.
She copies all the questions in her notebook.
Some verbs that end in y have a vowel before the ‘y’. Just add an s at the end of these words to make the third person singular form.
— buy – buys – say – says – pay – pays – annoy – annoys – pray – prays – stay – stays…
Mom buys bread at the supermarket.
Mr. Carter pays all his bills with a credit card.
My friend says he has a salt-water aquarium.
She annoys me with her silly jokes.
Anna stays with her aunt on weekends.
If the subject of a verb is a plural noun, such as “Mom and Dad” or “our teachers”, use a plural verb. Do not add s, es or ies to plural verbs. Plural verbs are also used with the pronouns I, we, you and they.
Mom and Dad love us.
My sisters listen to music a lot.
The stars shine brightly on a clear night.
Some people drink tea.
I like juicy hamburgers.
We learn interesting things at school.
You all know the words to this song, children.
They always walk home from school together.
Suppose the subject of a noun refers to a group of people. Depending on the meaning of the sentence, you may use either a singular or a plural verb.
The audience was enjoying the play.
The audience have all gone home.
The class has thirty students.
The class are handing in their papers.
The band is performing until midnight.
The band were arguing among themselves.
Note and remember
Words that refer to groups of people or animals are called collective nouns.
Here are some more examples:
— crowd, committee, herd, crew, litter, flock…
Read the following sentences. Underline the verb in each sentence.
1. We live in an apartment on the boulevard.
2. Some children learn very fast.
3. We go for swimming lessons on Sunday.
4. I like my new bike.
5. Babies sometimes sleep during the day.
6. My dad buys a newspaper every morning.
7. These dolls belong to Kathleen.
8. I often walk to school with my dad.
9. My sister plays the piano very well.
10. Sarah sometimes reads in bed at night.
Fill in the blank spaces with the third person singular form of the verbs in parentheses.
Example: Ali looks (look) sad today.
1. Sumiko…….(speak) English very well.
2. Mr. Kim……… (come) to school on his motorbike.
3. My neighbor’s dog………. (bark) very loudly.
4. My little brother always……….. (brush) his teeth properly.
5. Dad is so tall that his head almost…….. (touch) the ceiling.
6. Our dog…………(catch) the ball in its teeth.
7. Mom…………(mix) vinegar and oil to make salad dressing.
8. Sally…………(try) not to disturb her brother when he’s reading.
9. Dad …………(buy) his newspaper from the store on the corner.
10. Her music…………(annoy) me when I’m doing my homework.