Wednesday, April 29

Lesson 7: How to Match Your Subject and Verb

There is one basic rule in English that a Verb must match the Subject. The grammar books call this rule  Subject and Verb Agreement. According to this rule, a Singular Subject must have a Singular Verb and a Plural Subject must have a Plural Verb

Singular = one 

Plural = many 

But students should be careful because they might misunderstand what is Singular and what is Plural. In English, Subjects and Verbs are very different about this. 

Take a look: 

As you can see, sometimes the Subject and the Verb look opposite to each other. The Singular Subject has no "s" while the Singular Verb has "s." The Plural Subject has "s" while the Plural Verb has no "s." 

Anyway, it will be very confusing if you think about the rule. The best thing to do is to memorize it. In fact, many of you are already familiar with it:

* = "You" can be one or many, but its Verb is always Plural. "I" is one but its Verb is Plural.  

In the case of the "Be" Verb, we have to say:

Finally, when we use the “Have” Verb:

But I have some good news for you: if you use the Modal Verbs, you don't need to care about the rule because a Modal Verb never changes no matter its Subject. Like this:

The Subject and Verb Agreement rule is a part of English that you can learn by practice. In fact, by practice is the only way to learn it. You have to memorize all the different combinations of Subject and Verb and make them your habit, a part of your life.

There's a simple exercise you can do - even alone. When you’re reading an English book at the coffeeshopan English newspaper or online article on the subway, choose a sentence that is in the Present Tense (not Past or Future). For example:

She comes to the store every weekend.

They are working now.

I have met the new manager.

He is a fine fellow.

Next, practice changing the Subject into the different Pronouns. In Lesson 1, I taught you that there are 7 of them: 
  1. I
  2. He
  3. We
  4. You
  5. She
  6. They
  7. It

The 7 Pronouns are easy to memorize so practice with them. Of course if you change the Subject, the Verb must change too.  


Or, if you want, you can practice with my special paragraph:

The man is wearing his costume. He is a clown. He goes to the circus. He has worked there for a long time. He was an office worker before.

  •  STEP 1: Change the Subject of the first sentence into the 7 Pronouns (don’t forget to change the Verbs as well):

STEP 2:Keep on practicing until you memorize the Subject and Verb combinations.

In sum...

You should become very familiar with the combinations. You must be able to use them in real life, without forgetting or mixing them up. 


Students sometimes don't care about matching the right form of Verb to their Subject. But this has a very big effect. Someone who can make long sentences but can't match his Subject and Verb well still sounds like a low-level speaker of English

It’s not enough to know this rule on paper. You should be able to do it in real life – fast and without any mistakes or pauses (Ex. He wantHe wants to= X). That’s why you need a lot of practice to make the Subject and Verb Agreement automatic; like a reflex.

You might read on the Internet mismatched Subjects and Verbs such as "I can hasor "I are” or "I is," but this is similar to the language of a baby. One famous Net character, Lolcat, often uses this kind of bad grammar for fun. It will be dangerous if you copy it.

Keep on learning !

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