The Grammar GuideAbbreviationsSubject–Verb Agreement

Subject–Verb Agreement

Subject–Verb Agreement

Basic sentences are comprised of a subject and a verb. The verb is the action. The subject is who does the action. Verbs are conjugated into different forms. The form of the verb has to agree with the subject. For example, if the subject of a sentence is I, the verb must be the first-person singular form. If the subject is they, the verb must be conjugated in the third-person plural form.

In English, there are six types of subjects. Subjects can be first-person, second-person, or third-person. Each of these has a singular and plural form. It’s important to know the subject of your sentence in order to use the correct verb.

Subjects

First-Person

First-person singular refers to I, me, my, and mine. A first-person singular subject will always be the word I.

First-person plural refers to I and other people. It looks like we, our, and ours. The first-person plural subject is we.

Second-Person

Second-person singular and plural look the same in standard English. It uses the words you, your, and yours. Singular refers to only one you, while plural means more than one. The second-person singular and plural subject is you.

Third-Person

Third-person singular refers to one other person or thing. The subject may appear as a person’s name or a noun that describes this person (e.g. Jane or the teacher). It may also appear as he, she, it, or one.

Third-person plural refers to more than one other person or thing. This may look like several names or a plural noun that describes the people or things (e.g. Peter, Paul, and Mary or the singers). We can also use they.

When using singular they to talk about one person, continue to use the plural form of the verb.

Verbs

Verbs are conjugated depending on the subject. For regular verbs, we add an -s or -es to the third-person singular form. We typically only add -es to verbs ending in -s, -x, -z, -ch, or -sh. For the rest of the forms, we add nothing.

Examples:

  • I sit. You sit. He sits. We sit. They sit.
  • I come. You come. She comes. You and I come. The dogs come.
  • I watch. You watch. The child watches. We watch. They watch.

Irregular verbs are more complicated. The four most common irregular verbs that change in present tense are have, be, go, and does. Here’s how to conjugate these.

Have: I have. You have. It has. We have. They have.
Be: I am. You are. He is. We are. They are.
Go: I go. You go. She goes. We go. They go.
Do: I do. You do. It does. We do. They do.

Subject–Verb Agreement

Subject–verb agreement means that the forms of the subject and the verb agree. It’s important to make sure that your subject matches your verb.

Incorrect: I dances ballet.
Correct: I dance ballet.

Incorrect: He go to the store.
Correct: He goes to the store.

Incorrect: They watches the movie.
Correct: They watch the movie.