Subject Verb Agreement
Aim: This exercise is to help you to with grammar problems
One of the most common types of grammatical error in Hong Kong students' English
is called 'agreement'. Agreement means that the verb changes depending on the type of noun it
refers to. See below for examples. The grammar rules for agreement are
reasonably clear and simple, and therefore, because these mistakes are so common
in Hong Kong students' English, you can show that your English is superior if
you follow the rules on this page.
English regular present tense verbs have an 's' or 'es' on the end when the
subject is he, she, it, a person, or a singular or uncountable
noun; e.g. He likes, She jumps, It goes, Fred plays,
the biscuit tastes good, Water flows. Irregular verbs also
change, but differently; e.g. He does, She has, It is.
- 'I like him.' 'I' is singular and a first person pronoun, so the verb is 'like'.
- 'She likes him.' 'She' is singular, but a third person pronoun (so are 'it' and 'he'), so the verb is 'likes'.
- 'This student likes grammar.' 'Student' is a singular noun, so the verb is 'likes'.
- 'The dog likes him.' The dog' is a thing, and is singular, so the verb is 'likes'.
- 'Dogs like him.' 'Dogs' is a plural noun, so the verb is 'like'.
- 'The food here tastes nice'. 'Food' is uncountable, so use a verb that matches third person singular.
- 'Beer is cheap.' 'Beer is an uncountable noun in this sentence, so use 'is'.
- 'These two beers are nice, but that one is horrible'. This means 'These two types of beer', so because there are two types, and types of beer are countable,
use 'are'. Drinks are often uncountable, but countable when they are types, in bottles or glasses; e.g. "Can I have an orange juice?"
- After words such as 'must' and 'will' use an infinitive verb without 'to';
e.g. "He must tell me what happens."
- The main verb should agree with the main noun, e.g. in The research in
these reports shows that I am correct.", the verb shows agrees with research,
as research is the main noun in the noun phrase The research in these reports.
Research is an uncountable noun, so shows has an 's' at the end.
- Tense is more important than the number of subjects; e.g. The software
will arrive tomorrow. Even though software is uncountable, and
therefore should be followed by a verb with 's' at the end, tomorrow is
more important, so the tense of the verb (will arrive) shows the tense.
Choose the correct word from the drop-down list:
Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012Hits: 79044 visited