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Perfect Grammar: Subject – Verb Agreement Part 1

Updated: Feb 21



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Introduction - Achieving perfect grammar



In this article, I will explain why having subjects and verbs ‘agree’ with each other in sentences, is important.


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.


In other words: a singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject needs a plural verb.


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


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


I will start with this:


Simple present tense subjective-verb agreement

Third person singular form:

When the subject is he, she, it, or 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 (plural subject) depend (plural verb) 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.


It 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, use 'has' and the past participle when the subject is third-person singular. Use 'have' and the past participle 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 (and for 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 of subject-verb agreement in the next few articles to help you get perfect English grammar.




Further Reading



Having good grammar should be an essential skill to getting good English.



Answers

Many companies export their products to other countries. (plural subject/plural verb)

Spelling of words differs among English speaking countries. (The spelling differs, not the words.)

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

As an Australian, I spell it ‘colour'. (singular subject/singular verb)




© Apex English Tutoring Jan 2021 - Updated January 2024



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About Me


Hello and welcome!


My name is Michael Finemore and I am the owner-operator of Apex English Tutoring.


As an experienced English Teacher, I'm passionate about helping people turn their 'poor' English into great English, with easy and effective ways to practice.





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