English is a marriage between subjects (who or what is doing the action) and verbs (what the subject is doing), everything else is extended family. Together they make beautiful sentences. Without them, you’ll end up with horrible mutations. Here are some simple examples :

  • I eat
  • You love
  • We are
  • He knows

Subjects and verbs are inseparable. Even when one is away, it’s really there: “Eat!” “Go!” or “Get out of my life!” The subject here is of course you (You eat! You go! You get out of my life!).

Unlike a normal marriage, bickering isn’t allowed. Subjects and verbs have to agree with each other. This is called subject/ verb agreement. An English teacher’s job is to counsel the ugly, bickering language coming out of students’ mouths.

Subject/ verb disagreement often happens because of ‘s.’ ESL speakers have trouble with this because English adds an ‘s’ to both nouns and verbs, but not at the same time.

noun + s: The students want to go home.

verb + s: That student really wants to go home.


Additional Rules


1. Use doesn’t with singular verbs and don’t with plural.

  • The teacher doesn’t like his students.
  • The students don’t like their teacher either.

2. Verbs agree with subjects even when information is put between them.

  • Soccer players who are over the hill play in the US.
  • My holidays, which start next month, are long overdue.
  • That guy with all the kids is always stressed out.

3. When two or more nouns are joined by ‘or,’ ignore everything except the noun before the verb.

  • Ten dimes, four quarters or a dollar bill is needed for the vending machine.
  • A bagel or two muffins are all I need for breakfast.

4. Some plural nouns take on singular verbs (especially when they are considered an entire group, condition, or discipline).

  • Mathematics is a difficult subject for many westerners.
  • Herpes is something you want to avoid.

5. Collective nouns (team, group, crew, etc.) can be considered singular or plural. If singular, you mean the group collectively. If plural, you put emphasis on each member doing the action.