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Subject and Verb Agreement

Take the QUIZ on Subject and Verb Agreement

Action Verbs

Linking Verbs

Simple Tenses

Principal Parts of Verbs

Subject and Verb Agreement



Every sentence is made up of a subject and a predicate (see Parts of Speech). The key word in the predicate is the verb. It tells what the subject is or does. Verbs are divided into two types: action verbs and linking verbs.

Action Verbs are verbs that tell what the subject does.

Sarah looks for her car in the parking lot.

Look is an action verb that tells what Sarah does. Here, the action is physical. Other action verbs tell what mental action the subject does. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish action verbs from mental action verbs. In general, if you do something physically or mentally, that action is expressed by a verb. Know, realize, wish, think, hope, understand are common verbs that tell about a mental action.

Chen knows where his car is parked. Knowing is a mental action the subject does.

Linking Verbs
tell what the subject is or link the subject with an adjective word or phrase that describes it.

When Juan became a father, he felt proud. The word 'proud' is an adjective.

'Felt' is the past form of the verb 'feel', and 'feel' is a linking verb that describes the subject, Juan. (Juan felt 'proud'.)

Remember that linking verbs are words like appear, feel, and look. They connect a noun with another word that modifies it or renames it. Certain verbs can be used both as linking verbs or action verbs.

Both Linking and Action Verbs


A modifier following these word can be an adjective or adverb. To know which is correct, decide what words is being modified. If the word modifies a noun, it must be an adjective. A common mistake is to use the adverb because it seems to modify the verb it follows.

Incorrect: That bag looks heavily
Correct: That bag looks heavy. (Look is a helping verb; a heavy bag)

Incorrect: Jason grew quick.
Correct: Jason grew quickly. (How Jason grew)

Hint: Use this trick to help you decide whether a verb is used as a linking verb or an action verb. Mentally replace the verb with the linking verb, 'is' or 'are'. If the sentence still makes sense, the verb is a linking verb. The modifier should be an adjective. If the sentence doesn't make sense, it is an action verb. Then, the modifier should be an adverb.

Sarah grew angry: Sarah is angry. It is correct because the second sentence makes sense with 'is'.

Jane grew quickly. Jane is quickly. It is incorrect because the second sentence doesn't make sense with 'is'.

Verb Tense

In addition to telling what something is or does, verbs also tell the time of action.

The time shown by a verb is called its tense. Depending upon the tense, the verb may contain more than one word. "Jane has always played tennis." In this example, the verb is 'has played'. Always is not the part of the verb.

Simple Tenses

There are three basic or simple tenses.

Present Tense: I play tennis on weekends.

Past Tense: I played tennis last weekend.

Future Tense: I will play tennis this weekend.

Simple Future Tense

The simple future tense shows an action that will occur in the future.

I will go to the dentist tomorrow.

The simple future tense is formed by using will with the base form of the verb.

Future Tense

Singular Plural
I will walk We will walk
You will walk You will walk
He, She, It will walk They will walk

Principal Parts of Verbs

As you have already learned, there are three simple verb tenses; the past, present, and future tenses. In addition to these simple tenses, there are perfect verb tenses (see present perfect tense and present perfect continuous). To understand the perfect tenses, you must understand the principal parts of the verb. These parts are used to form the perfect tenses

The three principal parts of the verbs are the base, past, and past participle.

The following table shows the three principal parts, or forms, of the verb want.

Principal Parts of Verbs
Base Past Past Participle





have (has) wanted

have (has) gone

As shown in the table above, some verbs take only an 'ed' or a 'd' endings in their past and past participle tense forms, but some become another word. Verbs that take the endings 'ed' or 'd' in the past and past participle tenses are called regular verbs. Verbs that become a different word in their past and past participle tenses are classified as irregular verbs.

Infinitive and Base Form

In the following sentence, the second verb is used with the word 'to'.

July considers to study law.

The underlined words, to study, make up a verb called an infinitive. The infinitive always begins with the preposition 'to'. The verb form following the preposition 'to' is called the base form (to go; to swim).

The 'base form' is used to form the simple present and simple future tenses. For the simple past tense and perfect tenses past participle verb form are used (see the present perfect tense and present perfect continuous).

Subject and Verb Agreement

Besides knowing how to make verb tenses agree, you also need to know how to make verbs and subject agree.

Simple Subjects:

The key to making subjects and verbs agree is to look at the simple subject. (Remember simple subject is the noun or pronoun that the sentence is about.) Then look at the verb. If the simple subject is singular, the verb must also be singular. A plural verb must be matched with a plural subject. How would you correct these sentences?

Mehmet leap up the stairs.

The birds flies to the north.

In the first sentence, the simple subject is Mehmet, a singular noun. Leap is the plural form of the verb, so use the singular verb leaps.

Mehmet leaps up the stairs.

In the second sentence, the simple subject is birds, a plural noun. To correct this sentence, change the singular verb flies to the plural verb fly.

The birds fly to the north.

To check whether you have correctly matched subjects and verbs in a sentence, replace the subject noun in a sentence with a subject pronoun. The pronoun helps you see what is correct. Look at the pattern below:


You swim in the pool. She swims in the pool.
We   It  

Adding an s or es to a present tense verb makes it agree with the singular pronouns he, she, it, as well as with all singular nouns that they replace.




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English Grammar

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Parts of Speech

Passive Voice


Parallel Structure


Present Perfect Tense

Present Perfect Continuous Tense


Irregular Verbs

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