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The Writer’s Reference Book

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Module 7 – Subject-Verb Agreement – Hint Sheet

In the present tense, if the subject is a he, she or it (singular subjects), the verb has an -s on it:

  • He walks, she walks, it walks.

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

  • I walk, we walk, you walk, they walk.

Make sure you find the correct subject.

  • The subject is not in a prepositional phrase: One of the apples tastes sour. (one tastes)
  • 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)
  • 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)

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

  • Collective nouns are singular: The committee meets here. (committee meets)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • When and joins two subjects, the subject is plural: Ethel and Frank like pizza. (Ethel and Frank live)
  • When participles and infinitives are used as subjects, they are singular: Running provides excellent exercise. (running provides)
  • Remember that indefinite pronouns (each, everyone, everybody, one, etc.) are singular: Everybody likes Sam. (everybody likes)
  • 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)

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
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