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Subject-Verb Agreement




In the present tense, if the subject is a HE, SHE, or IT (singular subjects), the verb has an -S on it:


Any other subject (plural subjects) will not have an -S on the verb:


1. Make sure you find the correct subject.

a. The subject is not in a prepositional phrase:

One of the apples tastes sour. (ONE TASTES)

b. In a participial or infinitive phrase, don't mistake the object of the participle or infinitive

for the subject:

Running long races requires stamina. (RUNNING REQUIRES)

c. Don't mistake words in a subordinate clause for the subject in a main clause:

The man who wrote the letters wants to see you. (MAN WANTS)

2. Make sure you know some special subject-verb agreement rules.

a. Collective nouns are singular: The committee meets here. (COMMITTEE MEETS)

b. When subjects are separated by OR or NOR, the verb agrees with the subject that is

closest to it: Either the teacher or the students need help. (STUDENTS NEED)

c. When WHO, WHICH, or THAT is used as a subject, find the word that the pronoun

stands for. If that word is singular, the pronoun is singular; if it is plural, the pronoun

is plural:

The squirrels that live in our backyard are amusing. (SQUIRRELS=THAT LIVE)

d. When AND joins two subjects, the subject is plural:

Ethel and Frank like pizza. (ETHEL & FRANK LIKE)

e. When participles and infinitives are used as subjects, they are singular:

Running provides excellent exercise. (RUNNING PROVIDES)

f. Remember that indefinite pronouns (EACH, EVERYONE, EVERYBODY, ONE,

ETC.) are singular: Everybody likes Sam. (EVERYBODY LIKES)

g. The words THERE and HERE are never subjects. When a sentence starts with these

words, the subject usually comes after the verb:

There comes the boss. (BOSS COMES)

3. Be aware of the singular and plural forms of irregular verbs (TO BE, TO DO, TO HAVE).

TO BE: I am, you are, he is, she is, it is

we are, you are, they are

I was, you were, he was, she was, it was

we were, you were, they were

TO DO: I do, you do, he does, she does, it does

we do, you do, they do

TO HAVE: I have, you have, he has, she has, it has

we have, you have, they have