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One of my friends asks about subject verb agreement:

QUESTION: Can you please explain this?

I , we , you , they  … play football
but
he, she plays football

Why is there an ‘s‘ after the verb play for he and she, but not for we and they?


MY ANSWER:
Good question!

The reason for this is because in English we follow a rule that we call subject verb agreement.

Every sentence has a subject and a verb:

Example 1: I play football  Subject: I  Verb: play

Example 2: He plays football  Subject: He  Verb: plays

So when should you use an ‘s’ with the verb? Let’s take a look!


Using regular verbs:

First Person: I, We Rule: Do not use ‘s’
Examples: I play football, We play football
Second Person: You Rule: Do not use ‘s’
Examples: You play football
Third person singular: He, SheRule: Use ‘s’
Examples: He plays football, She plays football
Third person plural: They Rule: Do not use ‘s’
Examples: They play football


Using Irregular verbs: 
Examples of irregular verbs: do, have

First Person: I, We Rule: Do not use ‘s’
Examples: I do it, We do it, I have it, We have it
Second Person: You Rule: Do not use ‘s’
Examples: You do it, You have it
Third person singular: He, She Rule: Use ‘s’
Examples: He does it, She does it, He has it, She has it
Third person plural: They Rule: Do not use ‘s’
Examples: They do it, They have it

 

SUMMARY: USE ‘S’ FOR HE / SHE (Third person singular)


ACTIVITY:

Correct these sentences:

1) He live in China.

2) I loves to eat icecream.

3) They watches movies all the time.

4) She eat slowly.

5) We goes swimming every weekend.

Put your answer in the comments!

Want more practice? Go here: http://www.askjohnenglish.com/?p=439

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44 Responses to I play, He plays – Subject Verb Agreement

  1. roberta says:

    He lives in China
    I love to eat icecream
    They watch movies all the time
    She eats slowly
    We go swimming every weekend

  2. John says:

    Excellent Roberta!
    Your pronunciation is also excellent. Very clear.
    Sometimes students do not pronounce the ‘s’ on the end of verbs clearly, but you did.

    Well done!

  3. Robert says:

    Hello John

    He lives in China.

    Ilove to eat icecream.

    They watch movies allthe time.

    She aets slowly.
    We go swimming every weekend.

  4. majid says:

    all of sentences are incorrect.

  5. divya ritu says:

    1.He lives in china
    2.I love to eat icecream
    3.They watche movies all the time.
    4.she eats slowly.
    5.We go swimming every weekend.
    pls comment

    • John says:

      Great work!
      Feedback:
      They watch movies all the time. (no ‘e’ in ‘watch’)

      Don’t forget to end your sentences with a full stop(.)

  6. oscar says:

    what about:
    oscar pay or oscar pays

    Thank you

  7. Loyd says:

    why jessica,jat,ejong and jethro are common faces on the philippines?(GOOD QUESTION!!!)

  8. Lee says:

    John,

    What about Jury and Juries.

    The juries’ wallets are missing.

    The jury wallets are missing.

    The jury wallet is missing.

    Help

    • John says:

      Hi Lee
      People on a jury are called ‘jury members’. A ‘jury’ cannot own a wallet. ‘Jury members’ can own a wallet.

      Therefore, your sentences should be:

      The jury members’ wallets are missing.

      The jury wallets are missing.
      The jury wallet is missing.

  9. hun says:

    But WHY is there an s on plays or es on goes? What does it do for the sentence? It isn’t a flowing issue like an with a vowel or a with a constant or even a change in pronunciation due to the following word or ending of the current word. Why does English do this? It’s only for he/she/it/the…

    • John says:

      Hi hun

      What an interesting question! I like asking ‘why’! Firstly, it doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence. Yet, it must be done correctly for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

      The general rule is: If a subject is singular and is a third person (it is neither the speaker nor the listeners), use ‘has'; otherwise use ‘have’

      I/we/they ‘have’ a book. She/he ‘has’ a book.

      Does this help?

  10. Robert says:

    Hi

    The question why -s and why -es ; I think all languages has their grammer so thus why .
    Thank you John for your answer you say ,it must be done correctly for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

    Robert

  11. Robert says:

    After spending a week on skid row and seeing condition , the city authorties promise to make a diference.

    • John says:

      Hi Robert
      Great sentence! Some feedback:
      After spending a week on skid row and seeing the conditions, the city authorties promise to make a diference.

  12. ela jade quino says:

    can you pls give me ex. of subject verb agreement rule no. 16,17,18

  13. tasha says:

    What about the word can? 1.Can he play or can he play? 2. He can play or he can plays?

  14. topz says:

    Hi John

  15. topz says:

    Hi john!
    Which is correct?
    – How does it works or How does it work?
    Same in
    – What is your planning to do or What are your planning to do?
    Tnx John!!

    • John says:

      Hi Topz
      “How does it work?” is correct

      “What are you planning to do?” is correct (notice it is ‘you’ not ‘your’)

      Hope this helps!

      John

  16. topz says:

    Thanks John!!

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