Improve your Grammar: Subject – Verb Agreement Part I




Introduction


In this series of articles, I want to explain the importance of having subjects and verbs ‘agree’ with each other in sentences. It is a common error among students learning English. Ensuring subjects and verbs agree correctly will improve your writing and speaking.


Let me start with the basics and move on to more advanced forms.


Basic Subject-Verb agreement


Subject-verb agreement means that a subject and verb must agree in number. What this means is that a singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject needs a plural verb.

For example, ‘a dog’ needs a singular verb – ‘has’, for example, while ‘dogs’ ‘have’.


Depending on the tense in the sentence the verb may change.


I will start with this:


Simple present tense agreement


Third person singular form:


When the subject is he, she, it, or an equivalent (names: John, Sally, New York City, Germany), add an -s or -es ending to the verb.

Gary works as a sales consultant in London.


Base form:


When the subject is I, you, we, or they, or the equivalent (men, the oceans), do not add an ending to the verb.

Many companies depend on good salespeople.


Be, Have and Do


These verbs have irregular third-person singular forms.


be: I am He is We are

have: I have She has They have

do: I do It does You do


Agreement in other tenses


Almost all verbs have one past form in the past tense. The only past-tense verb that requires subject verb agreement is the verb be, which has two past forms: was and were.


I was awake. Bob was also awake. We were very excited about the day ahead.


In the present perfect tense, which is formed with 'have' or 'has' and the past participle, use 'has' when the subject is third-person singular and 'have' for all other forms.


The internet service has raised its connection fees. Other services have not raised their fees.


In the future tense and with modal forms (can, would, could, might, may…), you must use the same form of the verb with every subject.


I will go. She will go with me. We can go together.



Always Use Standard English


In informal conversations and in movies, you may hear people say He be bad, or She don’t have the time. In professional and academic situations (or just to be using correct English) use the correct forms of be, have, and do.


Try these for practice: (The answers are below, but try the exercise first.)


Many companies (export/exports) their products to other countries.

Spelling of words (differs / differ) among English speaking countries.

In the British spelling of ‘colour’, Americans (drops/drop) the ‘u’ and (spells /spell) it ‘color’.

As an Australian, I (spells / spell) it ‘colour’.


Conclusion


In this article, I have explained the basics of subject-verb agreement. I shall continue with other forms in the next article. I hope you will come back for that to keep on with the ‘project’ of improving your English.




Answers

Many companies export their products to other countries.

Spelling of words differs among English speaking countries.

In the British spelling of ‘colour’, Americans drop the ‘u’ and spell it ‘color’.

As an Australian, I spell it ‘colour'.





(c) Apex English Tutoring Jan 2021




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