When to Add s to a Verb



If you feel confident about forming plurals in English by adding an s or es at the end of the word, we’re about to make you feel a little wobbly. Although most noun plurals are formed this way, only verbs with a third-person singular noun or pronoun (he, she, boat, courage) as a subject ever have an added s on the end. With plural nouns (but also the singular pronouns I and you) there is never an added s at the end of a verb.

For example, which verb is plural, talk or talks? Because you would say, “He talks,” and he is a third-person singular pronoun, talks is a singular verb. You would say, “The people talk,” and people is a plural noun, so talk is a plural verb.

Example:
The position listed on the university website caught my attention because my education, experience, and training closely parallel/parallels your needs.

Answer: This sentence has two sets of subjects and verbs. The first subject/verb combination is position/caught. The second set of subjects is education, experience, and training, which is plural. We would say, “They parallel” so we must write or say, “… my education, experience, and training closely parallel your needs.”

Example:
If he or she needs/need me, I will be in the other room.

Answer:
In this sentence, he and she are the subjects; however, they are connected by or so we use the singular verb needs.

Caution: Sometimes a helping (also called an auxiliary) verb is used in conjunction with the main verb. When a helping verb is used, the spelling of the main verb does not change.

Example: If he or she should needs/need me, I will be in the other room.

Answer: When the main verb need is used with the helping verb should and a third-person singular noun or pronoun, there is no added s. If he or she should need me, I will be in the other room.

 

Pop Quiz

1. When he and Jenny walks/walk to work, they hold hands.
2. They leaves/leave at the end of the year for a month-long vacation.
3. Her dog, cat, and chicken gets/get along well together.
4. When he gets/get angry, his face turns/turn red.
5. She goes/go away every August.
6. She will calls/call you tomorrow.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. When he and Jenny walk to work, they hold hands.
2. They leave at the end of the year for a month-long vacation.
3. Her dog, cat, and chicken get along well together.
4. When he gets angry, his face turns red.
5. She goes away every August.
6. She will call you tomorrow.

Posted on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at 3:08 pm

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22 Comments on When to Add s to a Verb

22 responses to “When to Add s to a Verb”

  1. Chris says:

    Thanks GrammarBook.com! This is awesome. Hopefully this will be included in the next edition of the book.

  2. Reynaldo Coto says:

    How is the correct use of “s” in third person sentences with more than one verb in it?
    Ex: My wife likes to talk about foods cooking, watch tv, clean the house, etc.
    This sentence is correctly write or not?

    • The sentence should read “My wife likes to talk about cooking food, watching tv, cleaning the house, etc.”
      The subject of the sentence is wife. The subject is a third-person singular noun. Therefore, the singular verb likes has an added s. Likes is the main verb in the sentence. The verb likes is used with the infinitive to talk. The word about is a preposition and is followed by objects of the preposition, cooking, watching, and cleaning.

  3. Morne says:

    The sentence reads: Mum saw a man steal or steals a diamond ring…

    Which is correct steal or steals and why?

    • The base form of the verb, in this case steal rather than steals, is used after certain principal verbs such as watch, see (saw), hear, feel, help, let, and make, followed by an object.
      Mum saw a man steal a diamond ring.

  4. Artyom says:

    “The second set of subjects is education, experience, and training, which is plural.” Can i write this sentence by using the ‘are’ ?

    Like this: “The second set of subjects are education, experience, and training, which is plural.”

    Thanks

    • The subject of this sentence in our first EXAMPLE/ANSWER pair is the singular noun set; therefore, use the singular verb is. The non-restrictive clause at the end, which is plural, identifies that the singular set is a collective noun containing plural subjects (education, experience, and training).

  5. Pardeep says:

    Have you got any rule to put the helping verb have with the subject he?

  6. Dr Seuss says:

    The first example has a grammatical error.
    “The position listed on the university website caught my attention because my education, experience, and training closely parallel/parallels your needs.”
    The website belongs to the university, therefore an ‘s or s’ is required; please consider “university’s website.”

  7. Yun (Cathy) Wang says:

    So how about this? The first subject is plural and the second is not, does there need to be an “s” at the end of the verb?
    Foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a B12 supplement need/needs to be consumed by those following a strict plant-based diet without any animal products.

    • You have presented a fairly complicated sentence. The subject of your sentence is Foods, but there is some distraction caused by the current prepositional phrase. The sentence is a shortened form of:
      Foods fortified with vitamin B12 or foods fortified with a B12 supplement need/needs to be consumed by those following a strict plant-based diet without any animal products.

      In this form, it is apparent that the subjects on both sides of the conjunction or are plural and therefore require the plural verb need. We recommend the following treatment to help further identify the sentence subject:
      Foods fortified with vitamin B12 or with a B12 supplement need to be consumed by those following a strict plant-based diet without any animal products.

  8. Nasi says:

    So what ahout when we’re using the word ‘person’ in the sentence does the verb also come with s?
    for example: you’re the type of person who read/reads and not reply/replies…

    • In your example, “you” is the main subject and “type” is the predicate nominative that renames the subject (you can learn more about predicate nominatives in our articles Securing the Subject of Subjects and Predicating Our Knowledge of Predicates).

      The word “person” is the object of the preposition “of.” The word “who” is a relative pronoun that modifies “person.” “Who” is also the subject of a dependent clause. Because “who” modifies “person,” a singular noun, it would take singular verbs.

      The best way to write the sentence would be “You’re the type of person who reads and doesn’t reply.”

  9. joel says:

    Do we put an S also for entity like a company?
    Should I write my company consider…. or my company considers…..

  10. Asiphe says:

    My sentence is
    Learn to move away from people/ things that disturb your peace.
    My question is to the above sentence should I put disturb / disturbs ?

    • Because both people and things are plural nouns, use the plural verb disturb. In addition, we discourage use of the slash (/) in formal writing. Our recommendation is to rewrite as “people and things” or “people or things,” depending on your intention. Please see our post Thrash the Slash.

  11. Lori says:

    Please apply this rule to answers for questions which use helping verbs. Simple present tense verbs use “s” for third person singular for some auxiliary verbs, but not others. Why is this?

    Has he moved?
    ie: Yes, he has.
    Does she have kids?
    Yes, she does.
    But no “s” is used for should, can, etc?
    Does he cook? Yes, he does.
    Can he sew? Yes, he can. (no “s”)
    Should he go? Can he go? Could he try? Might he play?
    Yes, he (should/can/could/might).
    Why?

    • The rule above does not apply to auxiliary verbs. With many auxiliary verbs, the spellings do not change. Examples:
      I can, you can, she can, he can, it can, we can, they can
      I would, you would, she would, he would, it would, we would, they would

      The spellings of other auxiliary verbs change depending on the subject. When learning English, one needs to memorize the spellings. Examples:
      I do, you do, she does, he does, it does, we do, they do
      I have, you have, she has, he has, it has, we have, they have
      I am, you are, she is, he is, it is, we are, they are
      I was, you were, she was, he was, it was, we were, they were

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