Hello and welcome.
In this series of lessons, I will teach you all about subject-verb agreement.
We’ll start with the basics in this lesson and in the following lessons, we’ll discuss
more advanced topics such as quantity expressions, group or collective nouns, identifying subjects
when there are interrupting phrases or clauses, etc.
This first lesson will teach you how to make sentences with correct verb forms for different
subjects, and how to use the verb “be” – that is, am, is, are, was and were.
As always, at the end of the lesson, there is a final quiz to test your understanding.
So, if you’re ready, let’s get started.
So, what is subject-verb agreement?
Well, you know that every English sentence has a subject and a verb.
Subject-verb agreement means the subject and the verb must be in the correct form.
This is the rule: A singular subject takes a singular verb.
A plural subject takes a plural verb.
Take these two sentences: “That monkey eats bananas.”
“Those monkeys eat bananas.”
In the first sentence, we see a singular noun as the subject – “monkey”.
“Noun” means a name; so here, “monkey” is the name of an animal.
This is the subject here.
The verb is “eats”; “verb” means an action.
In this sentence, the subject is a singular noun – one monkey.
So, the verb also needs to be singular – eats.
But in the second sentence, we have a plural subject and a plural verb – “Those monkeys
Notice that the nouns and verbs are behaving in opposite ways – the singular noun “monkey”
becomes “monkeys” with an “s” in the plural form.
But the verb has an “s” in the singular form – “eats” and the plural verb “eat”
does not have an “s”.
Here are some more sentences: “That boy walks to school.”
“Those boys walk to school.”
“This car goes fast.”
“These cars go fast.”
“Your shirt looks nice.”
“Your shirts look nice.”
“That lady speaks Spanish.”
“Those ladies speak Spanish.”
“My grandfather has a big house.”
“My grandparents have a big house.”
So, the singular nouns here are “monkey”, “boy”, “car”, “shirt”, “lady”,
and “grandfather” – these are all nouns because they are names of people, animals
The singular verbs all have an “s”: “eats”, “walks”, “goes”, “looks”, “speaks”,
When we look at the plurals, this is reversed.
The plural nouns all have an “s” at the end.
And the plural verbs have no “s”.
Now, with plural nouns, I want to point out that there are some irregular plurals.
For example, instead of saying “that boy”, you can say “That child walks to school”,
but now the plural is “Those children walk to school”, not “childs”.
But still, “children” is a plural form, so we use a plural verb “walk” (with no
-s added to the end).
Here’s one more example, but this one is going to be a little tricky: “Mark lives
“Mark” is the name of one man, so we say “lives” (singular verb – that’s easy).
But, what if Mark has a wife, Anna.
Would you say, “Mark and Anna lives in Florida” or “live in Florida”?
Well, “Mark” is one person (so singular); similarly, “Anna” is one person (again,
However, “Mark and Anna” are two people, so this is a plural form.
We need a plural verb (remember that a plural verb does not take an -s at the end).
So, “Mark and Anna live in Florida.”
This type of subject connected by “and” is called a compound subject.
There is another type of compound subject connected by “or”: “Mark or Anna lives
in Florida” Now notice that we have a singular verb “lives”.
This is because the conjunction “or” means that either “Mark” or “Anna” (one
of those two) is in Florida, not both of them.
So, only one person lives in Florida, so the subject is considered singular and the verb
is also in singular form.
This kind of compound subject connected by “or” is not that common but it’s still
useful to keep this rule in mind.
Alright, there are a lot of nouns in these sentences.
But, in natural speech and writing, we often use pronouns in the place of nouns to avoid
For example, instead of “That child”, I can say “He walks to school.”
And instead of “Those children”, “They walk to school.”
In the place of “That lady”, I can say “She speaks Spanish”, and for the plural
again, “They speak Spanish.”
“They” here refers to “those ladies.”
“This car goes fast” can be rewritten as “It goes fast” and “These cars”
becomes “They go fast”.
Here are all the other sentences with the noun subject changed to a pronoun subject.
There are two things I want to point out.
Notice that in the first sentence, I’ve said “he”, “she” or “it”.
That’s because you can refer to an animal (like a monkey) in the same way that you talk
about a person – you can use “he” or “she” or you can just say “it” – that’s
And second, we see that all of the plurals have been changed to “they”.
But in some cases you can also have “we”.
For example, if you’re talking to the Spanish-speaking ladies, they can say, “We speak Spanish”.
Similarly, if you’re in a conversation with Mark and Anna, Mark might say, “We live
– “we” meaning the couple of Mark and Anna.
The children can say “We walk to school” and if monkeys could talk, they’d tell you
“We eat bananas.”
Here’s a table that shows you this pattern.
The first row has singular nouns and the singular pronouns “He”, “She” and “It”.
So the verbs are all in singular form with an -s added to the end.
In the second row, we see plural nouns along with the two plural pronouns “We” and
So the verbs are all in plural form without the -s.
Now, you might have noticed that there are two important pronouns missing here: the pronouns
“I” and “you”.
Well, let me ask you: are “I” and “you” singular or plural?
Where would you put them?
Now, the pronoun “I” is always singular; I’m always just one person.
“You” is usually singular because we usually focus on one person when speaking, but it
can also be plural if you’re talking to more than one person.
Like through this video, I’m teaching all of you.
So “I” is a singular pronoun and “you” can be singular or plural.
However, the rule in English is that with both “I” and “you”, we always use
a plural verb form.
Don’t ask me why.
There’s no real reason for this.
It’s just the rule.
For example: “I read the newspaper every morning”, “You make very good coffee.”
You might say that as a compliment if you go to somebody’s house and you really like
the coffee they give you.
Notice that I did not say “I reads” or “You makes”.
With “I” and “You”, we use plural verbs without -s.
Let’s get back to the full sentences.
I’ve added our two new sentences with “I” and “You” at the bottom.
The basic subject verb agreement rule – singular verb for singular subject and plural verb
for plural subject also applies to negative forms.
We say “That monkey does not eat bananas” or “doesn’t eat bananas” and “Those
monkeys do not or don’t eat bananas.”
It’s important to note that we say “does not” and then “eat”.
We don’t say “does not eats” because the -s is already added to the helping verb
So, there’s no need to add it again to the main verb “eat”.
If you want, stop the video and read the other sentences.
So, remember that to make negative sentences, we use “does not” with singular subjects
and “do not” with plural subjects.
Similarly, to make questions, we use “does” (singular) and “do” (plural): “Does
that monkey eat bananas?”
“Do those monkeys eat bananas?”
“Does that boy walk to school?”
“Do those boys walk to school?”
You can pause and read the others if you want.
Let’s get back to the original sentences for a moment.
I want to point out that subject verb agreement rules only apply to the present tense.
In the past tense, subject-verb agreement isn’t a problem because there’s only one
past tense verb form.
The past tense of “eat” is “ate.”
So, we say: “That monkey ate bananas.”
“Those monkeys ate bananas.”
It’s the same for both singular and plural subjects.
Similarly, “That boy walked to school.”
“Those boys walked to school.”
In the other sentences, we would say “went”, “looked”, “spoke”, “had”, “lived”,
So, remember that the basic subject verb agreement rule only applies in the present tense.
The rule is: for a singular subject, you add -s to the verb.
And for a plural subject, you just use the verb in its base form without -s.
This rule works for all verbs: walk, go, look, speak, ring, have, live, do, talk, play, etc.
Actually, this rule works for all verbs except for one, and that’s the verb “be.”
The verb “be” has its own subject-verb agreement rules.
Let’s talk about them now.
You know that verbs in English have two present tense forms: “eat, eats”, “walk, walks”
and so on, and one past tense form: “ate”, “walked” etc.
But, the verb “be” has three present tense forms: “am”, “is” and “are”.
It also has two past tense forms: “was” and “were”.
In the present, if the subject is “I”, we say “am”: “I am a teacher”, “I’m
going to eat.”
If the subject is a singular noun or one of these pronouns: “he”, “she” or “it”,
we use “is”: “He is happy”, “Sara is waiting”, “It is raining”.
And if the subject is a plural or one of these pronouns: “you”, “we” or “they”,
we use “are”: “You are late”, “We are eating”, “The children are playing”.
In the past, the rules are different.
For singular noun subjects and for the pronouns “I”, “he”, “she” and “it”,
we use “was”: “I was tired”, “Arun was running”, “She was afraid”.
And for plural subjects and the pronouns “you”, “we” and “they”, we use “were”:
“You were rude”, “We were traveling”, “The dogs were barking.”
You see that some of these sentences have continuous verbs: “am going”, “is waiting”,
“is raining”, “are playing”, “was running”, “were traveling”, “were
These are in the present or past continuous tenses, but the form of the verb be: “am”,
“is”, “are”, “was”, “were” is what changes depending on the subject.
If you memorize the simple rules in this table, you’ll find that using “be” correctly
is really no trouble at all.
Alright, if you’re ready, it’s now time for our quiz.
Alright, you see that I have a few tables over on that side that show you all the rules
for subject verb agreement that we have discussed.
The first table is for verbs in general and the second two tables are for the verb be,
first for present and then for the past tense.
Now I have a total of 17 sentences for us to practice with.
We'll do a set of five first and then we'll move on to the next set.
Alright in each sentence I want you to choose the correct verb form so in each one you see
that there are two options at various places.
I want you to choose the correct option in each case.
Stop the video now, think about your answers, then play the video again and continue.
Alright here are the answers: number one: “I like to study for an hour before I go
to bed at night” In both cases we use the base form of the verb without an -s because
for the pronouns I, you, we and they, we don't add s to the verb.
It's the same in number two: You smell great (not smells) because we don't add -s with
the pronoun you and here, “What perfume are you wearing?”
now the subject here is not perfume the subject is you, okay, so with “you” the verb form
of “be” that we're supposed to use is “are”, so “What perfume are you wearing?”
Number three: “This apple looks fresh” There's only one apple we're talking about
here, so we add -s to the verb; that's the singular form – “This apple looks fresh
but those mangoes don't.”
Those mangoes are a plural so we don't add s to the helping verb do: “Those mangoes
don't” - that means they don't look fresh.
Number four: “Paul and his brother run a successful photography business together”
Remember that Paul and his brother is a compound subject - Paul and his brother are two people
so we use a plural verb form “run” without adding -s to the end.
And finally number five – “There are seven continents in the world.”
Here, the subject is not “there” - it's neither singular nor plural; there is just
The subject here is seven continents - that's a plural so “There are seven continents
in the world.”
Alright, here's the next set of five -number six to ten.
Stop the video think about your answers then play the video and check.
Alright here are the answers - in number six we have a conversation between two people:
“What time is it?”
“It's two o'clock.
Why do you ask?”
“Well Jen has a flight at five.
She needs to get going.”
Here we've said “has” and “needs” because in both cases we have a singular subject.
Here Jen is a singular subject and she is a pronoun that refers back to Jen.
Number seven – “Sunil” again singular “says he would like to visit Moscow someday”
You might be wondering if Sunil is singular why is it “like” and not “likes” over
here - that's because when we have a modal verb like will, would, can, could, shall,
should and so on we don't apply any subject verb agreement rules.
We just put the modal and then the base form of the verb, that's why “Sunil says he would
like to visit Moscow someday.”
Number eight: “You talk too fast for me.
Could you slow down a little please?”
Number nine: “Does Brenda drive to work?”
Again, Brenda is a singular noun so we need to add -s to the helping verb “do”: we
make it does and then we make a question with that: “Does Brenda drive to work?
No she doesn't.
She takes the bus.”
Number 10: “We wanted to go out and play because we were really bored” With the plural
pronoun we, we use were in the past tense so “We were really bored but it was raining
outside so we just stayed inside” “It” is a singular subject so “it was raining
OK, now we move on to sentences number 11 to 14.
OK, stop the video, do the exercise and then check.
OK in number 11, “Do all adverbs end in ly?”
Imagine a student asking that to his or her teacher.
We say “Do” because the subject here is “all adverbs” plural, so “Do all adverbs
and in ly?”
The teacher says “No, there are many adverbs that have other endings” So again “are”
and “have” because the subject is a plural.
Number 12: “My son” singular “My son goes to the gym every day after school.
I'm glad he doesn't spend a lot of time playing video games like other kids” 13: “Ashley”
singular again “Ashley was elated” - elated means she was very happy “Ashley was elated
when she found out her mom and dad were coming to visit” Mom and dad are two people, again
we have a compound subject – “mom and dad were coming to visit” OK number 14:
“Who are those people?
I don't know.
They look like executives or salespeople; I can’t tell.”
Alright, we move on to our last set of sentences: sentences number 15 to 17.
These are slightly longer to challenge you.
Go ahead and stop the video and do the exercise.
OK number 15: “What breed is your dog?
He's a German Shepherd.
What does he like to do?
He loves going for walks but he absolutely hates taking a bath” 16: “Shalini teaches
physics at a college.
She enjoys teaching but says” now up until this point we've been dealing with Shalini
who is one person so a singular subject but here it gets a little complicated: “but
she says the hours” plural “the hours are long and the pay” singular “isn't
very good so she” singular again “is looking for a better paying job” Number 17: “The
report has revealed” The report is singular “The report has revealed that more than
two million accounts” plural “have been affected because of the website’s recently
exposed security loophole” Now in this last sentence you see “two million accounts have
been affected” this is in the passive voice.
Now as far as subject verb agreement goes it doesn't matter whether a sentence is in
the active voice or the passive voice you just look at the subject and you apply the
correct verb form.
Alright I hope you've enjoyed this lesson.
Go ahead and watch part 2 of subject verb agreement for more advanced topics.
Let me know how many of these 17 sentences from the quiz you got right in the comments
As always happy learning and I'll see you in another lesson soon.