Introduction to Subject-Verb Agreement

A verb tells about an action or describes the subject of the sentence. Verbs change form to show number. That is, verbs change their spelling to show if their subjects are singular (one) or plural (more than one, 2+).

When a singular subject (one person, place, or object) is paired with a singular verb, the subject and verb agree. By agree, we mean that the subject of any sentence must match the verb in number. Singular subjects agree with singular verbs; plural subjects agree with plural verbs. This unit will help you make subjects and verbs agree.


This video explains subject-verb agreement using shapes and labels to help you visualize singular (1, small puzzle piece) and plural (2+, larger puzzle piece). Also, as in other units, subjects are purple, and verbs are green. Watch the videos to learn how to find and correct subject-verb agreement errors.

Download transcript.


Verbs convey a lot of information. They tell about actions like race, fly, and laugh. They also describe subjects; for example, is, feel, and look are linking verbs that connect the subjects with their descriptions in another part of the sentence.

One type of information that verbs convey is number; that is, verbs show how many subjects are paired with them. In grammar, numbers include either one (1, called singular) or more than one (2+, called plural).

Both subjects and verbs show number (singular or plural) by changing spelling in the present tense. In general, plural nouns add an –s at the end; but, there are exceptions like data, alumni, and teeth. Plural verbs do not end in –s. Consider these examples, which follow the pattern:

SINGULAR: The student uses the Internet for research.
PLURAL: The students use the Internet for research.

In the singular example, student has no –s ending while uses does have an –s ending.

In the plural example, students have an –s ending while use does not have an –s ending.

This strategy of making sure either the noun or the verb but not both have an –s ending works too if we change the subject from a noun into a pronoun:

SINGULAR: She uses the Internet for research.

The strategy does not work for plural pronouns, however:

PLURAL: They use the Internet for research.

Therefore, one basic rule to follow in making subjects and verbs agree is to add an –s to the present tense form of the verb if the subject is he, she, or it or if the subject can be replaced by one of these personal pronouns.

No matter whether you use the –s ending strategy or simply label subjects and verbs with 1 or 2+, making subjects and verbs agree is an important part of writing well.


The study pages in this unit work through three common problems with subject-verb agreement:

Make sure you understand the basics of subject-verb agreement covered in this introduction before you move on.

Then, as you read through the study pages and practice with LearningCurve before taking the post-test, try to imagine singular and plural labels above subjects and verbs. Checking that subjects and verbs convey the same number (singular or plural) will help you find and correct subject-verb agreement errors.

Don’t forget to work smartly!