ABE English Tutorials/simple sentences/Verbs Change with Number

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Verb change with Number

Tutorial.png Simple Sentences 

Intro to writing skills | Intro to a sentence | Helping verbs | Adding modifiers | Kinds of sentences | Writing simple sentences | Finding objects and phrases | Here and There | Spelling: Part 1 | Spelling List 1 | Writing with objects and phrases | Verbs that change with Number | Verbs that change with Time | Irregular Verbs | Verb Participles | Writing with verb tenses | Compound Subjects | Subject-Verb Agreeement | Understanding sentence lists | Sentence Fragments | Writing sentence lists | Review for Unit 1 |


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In our first lesson, we were introduced to verbs, the words which tell what someone (or something) does in a sentence. We learned that there are action verbs (like: walk, run, cook, fly) and helping verbs (like: is, can, would ,does

Verbs are probably the most complicated words in the English language. Why would we call them complicated? Because verbs often have to change to make them fit the meaning or the other words in a sentence. Let's look first at the way verbs must change to fit the number of people doing the action:

One person (or thing) More than one person (or thing)
The girl skates. The girls skate.
The helicopter flies The helicopters fly.
The puppy sleeps. The puppies sleep.
The boy does The boys do

Can you see how the verb must change to fit the subject? Subject-verb agreement seems sort of ackwards: singular subjects (singular means "one person or thing"), which don't end in "s", usually have an "s" at the end of their verb; but plural subjects (plural means "more than one person or thing"), which usually do end in "s", don't have an "s" at the end of their verb.

Of course, this is also true when we use a pronoun (pronouns are words like: he, she, we, they, it) as the subject, as in these exampl

Singular || Plural
She works They work
He drives They drive
It howls They howl
He has They have

Sometimes it is easy to see how the subject and verb go together in a sentence. See if you can find the subject, and choose the right verb, in this sentence:

The shoes (is) (are) dirty.

You can probably see that the subject is "shoes", and so the correct verb should be "are". But in this next example, it is not so obvious:

The shoes in this box (is) (are) dirty.

Which is the subject: "shoes" or "box"? Well, which one is the thing which is dirty? The shoes are dirty. "In the box" is a phrase, and you should remember that the subject of a sentence is never found in a phrase. You can mentally cross out the phrase "in the box", and see what you have left:

The shoes....(is) (are) dirty.

and once you have done this, it is easy to see that the correct verb should be are. Doesn't and don't are sometimes hard to learn. Remember that doesn't means does not. Don't means do not.

You wouldn't say:

He do go.

You would say:

He does go.

So you can't say:

He don't go.

You have to say:

He doesn't go.

Here are the correct ways to say it: I do or I don't We do or we don't You do or you don't They do or they don't He does or he doesn't She does or she doesn't It does or it doesn't

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Pay special attention to the singular and plural forms of these little "helper" verbs: Singular:(one person or thing) Plural:(more than one person or thing)

is (or am) does becomes was has are do become were have

Choose the correct verb for each sentence:

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Most children (likes, like) ice cream.

Jonathan (does, do) fifty pushups every night. The books on the table (is, are) mine.

The decision of the workers (was, were) to go on strike. (Is, Are) the roads paved in that area?


  1. The correct verb is like (goes with the plural subject children)
  2. The correct verb is does (goes with the singular subject Jonathan)
  3. The correct verb is are (goes with the plural subject books -- don't make the mistake of thinking that the subject is table! The word table is inside a phrase.)
  4. The correct verb is was (goes with the singular subject decision -- don't make the mistake of thinking that the subject is workers! The word workers is inside a phrase.)
  5. The correct verb is Are (goes with the plural subject roads)