Language Focus: Subject-Verb-Agreement
English Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced
Worksheet Download: subject-verb-agreement-worksheet.docx
If the subject of a sentence (e.g. “I”) doesn’t match the verb (e.g. “are”), we say that the subject and the verb don’t agree. In other words, you have a subject-verb-agreement mistake (SVA), which is a common mistake for English language learners.
I made the above worksheet for my college students in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program. Students, you can do the practice exercises below.
A Review of Subject Verb Agreement Rules
In English, if the subject of a verb is the third-person singular (He/She/It), then the verb will have an ‘s‘ at its end. Here’s an example with the verb like:
- I like it. (First person singular)
- You like it. (Second person singular)
- He likes it / She likes it / It likes it. (Third person singular)
- We like it. (First person plural)
- They like it. (First person plural)
- You like it. (First person plural)
This is the rule for all verbs (jump/walk/read/etc).
With the BE Verb, the first person singular is changed to ‘am‘ (present) and ‘was‘ (past), and the third person singular becomes ‘is‘ (present)’ and ‘was‘ (past). See the table below.
|BE – present||BE – past|
Singular & Plural?
A singular noun is just one thing. It is a single thing. Here are singular nouns in the third person:
- A dog (is …)
- A candle (burns …)
- The boy (has…)
- The world (turns…)
Uncountable nouns also use the same verbs as singular nouns. For example:
- Love (is…)
- Wine (tastes…)
- The water in the lake (feels…)
A plural noun is more than one thing. These plural subjects are the same as “They”.
- Dogs (are…)
- Two candles (burn…)
- The boys (have…)
- People (live…)
Two singular nouns connected by AND makes a plural subject.
- The man and the woman live here. (The man + the woman = they)
- The reason she came here and the reason I came here are different. (two reasons = they)
Advanced Rules with Subject Verb Agreement
Here are some hints for the advanced exercises:
1. The closest word to the verb is not always the subject.
- The leader of the students has long hair.
The head noun of the phrase is “The leader.” The prepositional phrase “of the students” modifies the subject. The full subject is The leader of the students. Is subject singular or plural? It’s singular (one), and the third person (the leader = she/he).
- The bird in the trees was beautiful.
Similarly, the subject is the bird in the trees. This is one thing, so the verb will be ‘was’, not ‘were’.
- The man who bought a hundred houses is rich.
Again, the subject is ‘The man (who bought a hundred houses)‘. To find the subject, just look at the verb and ask yourself (what) is rich? The answer is the man (not the houses) is rich.
2. In inverted sentences, the verb agrees with the noun that comes after it.
An inverted sentence is when the subject comes after the verb. For example:
- There is a problem. (verb = is , singular subject = a problem)
- Here are your glasses. (verb = are, plural subject = your glasses)
- Now comes the difficult part. (verb = comes, singular subject = the difficult part)
- How important are the price, location, and size? (verb = are, plural subjects = price/location/size)
3. Everyone/Someone/Anyone/No one/etc are singular subjects.
Everyone refers to every single person. These subjects agree with a verb in the third-person singular form.
- Everyone is hungry.
- Somebody lives here.
4. Phrases in parentheses () or between commas are not part of the subject.
- The man, in addition to his daughter, lives here. (subject = the man)
- The man (in addition to his daughter) lives here. (subject = the man)
There are several other rules as well that are not listed above. Try the exercises below and if you have any questions, please leave a comment.
Subject Verb Agreement Exercises
Subject Verb Agreement – Beginner
- My teacher funny. He to tell jokes. I think his jokes funny, and my friends . Most of the students in my class boys. There not many girls in my school who my age. It weird. My friend a girlfriend. My parents always me if I have a girlfriend, by my answer always “No.”
Subject Verb Agreement – Intermediate
- Everyone problems in life. Countries also problems, and so the world. One of the greatest problems the growing population. The population in some countries huge. Both India and China populations of over one billion people. Both growing, too.
- A few of my friends cars. One of my friends rich. Much of his money from his parents. His parents three companies that products. I don’t know what kind of products the companies with or who their customers .
Subject Verb Agreement – Advanced
- A number of my friends riding bicycles, but neither my brother nor my sister a bicycle. At 4 o’clock, either my mother or father coming to pick me up (in a car).
- The pair of shoes on the floor mine. The shoes made in Italy. The 300 dollars I spent on them worth it.
- Finding a job where you can learn new skills a lot of effort. I have been looking for six months. Six months a long time. Not even one company that I applied to responded.
- A lot of chicken eaten in America. As a consequence, a lot of chickens raised on farms. I know this because I study agriculture and economics. In fact, economics my favourite subject. I think that it, along with agriculture, fascinating.
- A photograph of two children on the desk. Outside, there people and a cat on the street. Sitting on the roof of a building a big crow.
- How useful this website and many other free ones for studying English ! This website (which I think is better than some others) founded in 2011.
Find a mistake? Have a question? Leave a comment below.
— Subject Verb Agreement Worksheet & Exercises created by Matthew Barton (copyright) of Englishcurrent.com