The Rule for Subject-Verb Agreement

I are going to talk about subject-verb agreement. As you reads, you will learn a great deal about it.

Those sentences sounded a bit off, didn't they? The problem is a lack of subject-verb agreement. The first verb in each sentence does not match the noun preceding it: are does not go with I, and reads does not go with you. This article is about fixing and avoiding such errors.

If you have read the article about pronoun agreement, you will already be familiar with the characteristics of nouns and verbs. Some of these characteristics are invoked again in the rule for subject-verb agreement:

A Verb Must Agree in Number and Person with its Subject

What does this rule mean? Let's break it down:

1. Nouns can be singular or plural. You can refer to one cow or an entire field of cows, one house or a group of houses. Most nouns become plural with an added s, with exceptions like child/children and mouse/mice.

Verbs, too, can be singular or plural. That is to say, a verb will assume one form when the accompanying noun is singular, and another form when the noun is plural:

The child runs away whenever the teacher calls her.

The children run away whenever the teacher calls them.

2. Nouns can be first person (I, we), second person (you, whether singular or plural), or third person (he, she). And verb forms vary with person just as they do with number:

I participate in triathlons.

She participates in triathlons.

As you can see from these examples, adding s to a verb does not make it plural. Instead, the s makes the verb agree with the third-person singular subject. Notice, too, that all of the examples are in present tense. In past tense or future tense — participated or will participate — the verb form is always the same.

In general, subject-verb agreement is fairly intuitive. However, there are times when maintaining agreement proves more difficult. We will look at a few such instances.

Subject-Verb Agreement

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