Subject Verb Agreement Rules

The basic principle of subject – verb agreement is simple. The verb has to agree with the subject in number and person. That means if the subject is a singular noun, the verb has to be singular in number. Plural subjects are followed by plural verbs.

A singular noun is used to talk about one person or thing. Examples are: cat, dog, book, tree, flower, boy, teacher etc.

A singular noun normally has an article or another determiner (e.g. some, any, this, that, my, your etc.) with it. We can say a cat, my cat, the cat or this cat, but not just cat.

A plural noun is used to talk about more than one person or thing. Examples are: cats, dogs, books, trees, flowers, boys, teachers etc.

A plural noun can be used with or without an article.

Compare:

  • There is a spider on the wall. (NOT There is spider on the wall.)
  • A spider has eight legs. (NOT Spider has eight legs.)
  • Spiders have eight legs. OR The spiders have eight legs.

In the simple present tense when the subject is a singular noun or pronoun, the verb takes the marking –s. There is no –s marking when the subject is a plural noun or pronoun.

Compare:

  • Dogs bark. (Here the subject is a plural noun (dogs) and hence the verb doesn’t have the marking –s.)
  • The dog barks. (Here the subject is a singular noun (the dog) and hence the verb takes the marking –s.)
  • The bird flies.
  • Birds fly.

Just like nouns, pronouns, too, can be singular or plural.

The singular pronouns are: I, he, she and it

The plural pronouns are: we and they

The pronoun you can be singular or plural in number.

We have already learned that different tense forms are made with the help of auxiliary verbs. Some auxiliary verbs are only used with singular nouns and pronouns. Examples are: is, was and has.

  • The boy is writing.
  • She has a doll.
  • It was raining.
  • He is a nice chap.
  • The dog is hungry.
  • She is a writer.
  • Rama was a brave warrior prince.

The auxiliary verb am is only used in the present tense with the first person pronoun I.

  • I am writing.
  • I am a girl.
  • I am tired.
  • I am angry.
  • I am happy.

Note that when the subject is I, the verb doesn’t have the marking –s in the simple present tense.

  • I work hard. (NOT I works hard.)

Some auxiliary verbs are only used with plural nouns and pronouns. Examples are: are, were and have.

  • They are our friends.
  • The boys are playing in the park.
  • The dogs are barking.
  • They were angry with us.
  • The girls were busy with their studies.
  • We were preparing for the exam.
  • They have come.
  • We have been cheated.
  • The boys have handed in their work.

The pronoun you

The pronoun you can be singular or plural but it is always used with plural auxiliary verbs like are, were and have.

When the subject is you, the verb doesn’t have the marking –s in the simple present tense.

  • You are my friend.
  • You are amazing.
  • You were being a stupid.
  • You work hard. (NOT You works hard.)
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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