Agreement of Verbs

May 21, 2021

Before You Begin: What Is a Subject?

Before you get started with this lesson, you’ll need to understand what a subject is. Every complete sentence has a subject (person or thing) and a verb (action). The subject is the person or thing that does the action in a sentence.

Sandra raced across the finish line.

Sandra is the subject. She is the person who raced.

Kelly is getting his driver’s license next week.

Kelly is the subject. He’s the one getting a driver’s license.

That’s all you need to know for this lesson, but if you want to learn more, you can visit Lesson 1 of Module 5.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Whether you’re writing or speaking, it’s important to use the verb form that matches with a sentence’s subject. This is called subject-verb agreement. In the present tense for example, singular nouns and plural nouns each require a different verb form.

One bird flies across the sky.
Two birds fly across the sky.

Hint: Be careful! To make a noun plural, we usually add s, but adding s to a verb makes it third-person singular. Notice how in the examples above we used flies for one bird and fly for two birds.

Keep in mind that subject-verb agreement usually only matters in tenses that use the present, such as the simple present, present perfect, and present progressive. That’s because the present has two forms while most other tenses only have one. Let’s compare the simple present and simple past tenses.

To Run
SubjectPresentPast
Iyouwe, and theyrunran
heshe, and itrunsran

You can see that to run has two present tense forms but only one past tense form. The same is true for most other verbs.

The Exception: To Be

You’ve probably noticed by now that the verb to be is often the exception to the rule, and this case is no different. It’s the only verb that has two past tense forms, so you’ll have to pay extra attention to it.

He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Beware of Contractions

Contractions can throw people off when it comes to subject-verb agreement, so let’s break one of them down.

Does + not = doesn’t
Do + not = don’t

SubjectVerb
Iyouwe, and theydon’t
heshe, and itdoesn’t

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