When to Add s to a Verb



Please note: This original post from April 2007 has been updated and replaced by a new version of When to Add s to a Verb, published on May 16, 2017. 

If you feel confident about forming plurals in English by adding an s or es at the end of the word, I’m 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 Web site 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.

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 red.
5. She goes/go away every August.

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.


Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2007, at 8:44 pm

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590 Comments on When to Add s to a Verb

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

  1. Federico says:

    I’m not sure why you talk about plural vs singular. What about “I”? I think this sentence is correct:

    If I need you, I will call your room.

    I understand that “I” is singular and I’m still using the verb without “s.” I learned the rule like “verbs in 3rd person (i.e. he, she, it) should be suffixed with an s.”

    Thanks!

    • Jane says:

      This is a very good question! You are correct that I is singular and in the case of a third person (he, she, it), the verb should usually be suffixed with an s. In your example, “If I need you, I will call your room,” the verb “call” is singular, but the word “will” is present. In this case, the word “will” is a modal auxiliary verb. It is used in conjunction with the main verb “call.” When an auxiliary verb is there, the verb does not change no matter what the subject is (I will call, you will call, we will call, they will call, he will call, she will call.)

      • Thangadurai Punithan says:

        Is it OK if I don’t use the modal auxillary verb in a sentence and add ‘s’ at the end of the verb. For instance, can I use the first of the following sentences instead of second one?

        I am not someone who shows my tears
        or
        I am not someone who will show my tears

        Thanks.

        • In your sentence, “who” refers to “someone,” not to “I.” So depending on gender, the correct sentence would be “I am not someone who shows his tears.” OR “I am not someone who shows her tears.” Be sure to add a period at the end of the sentence.

          • Vishnu says:

            I have little confusion about below statements.

            I know “He talks to the principal” is a correct statement. (Let me know if is wrong.)

            I want to know which one of the below is correct and why.

            1) He and Jenny talks to the principal.
            2) He and Jenny talk to the principal.

            As per my guess 2) is correct, but don’t know why it is correct. I would like to know the reason.

          • The second sentence is correct because there are two subjects, he and Jenny. As the post states, “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.”

      • Jena says:

        Please clear my doubt in below sentence on how to use the “S”.

        “If She need/needs you, She will call your room.”

        Can you also please explain the answer.

        Thanks

        • In English, verbs in the present tense have an added s on the end when the subject is a third-person singular noun or pronoun (man, she). The second part of your sentence uses the auxiliary will. The verb does not require the added s after an auxiliary. Also, the pronoun she should not be capitalized.

          If she needs you, she will call your room.

  2. Jeannine says:

    A question on sample SAT test 2 in The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd Edtion, gives the word “her” as the error in the following sentence:
    “Neither Ms. Perez nor Ms. Tanaka believes that watching as much television as her son Sam does will lead to anything productive.” The choices for errors were “nor”, “believes”, “her”, “will lead”, and No Error.
    I thought that “believes” is wrong because nearest subject dictates verb tense; thus it should be “believe.” Also, for “her” to be wrong, it must be “their” in which case Ms. Perez and Ms. Tanaka have a son together. Can someone confirm or refute the SAT answer?

    • Jane says:

      I’m not sure what the SAT folks were trying to get at here either. “Her son” doesn’t seem to fit because only one son is named. However, two singular nouns connected by neither/nor should take a singular verb like “believes.” So does the SAT suggest that the answer is “Neither Ms. Perez nor Ms. Tanaka believes that watching as much television as their son Sam does will lead to anything productive”? Who knows?

  3. Samah says:

    What about the verbs that come after can and do? How so we add s to them?

    • Jane says:

      We don’t necessarily add an “s” to the verb that comes after “can.”
      Example: He can cook.
      Often, the word that comes after “do” is a noun and does not have an “s” on it.
      Examples: She does the work of two people. The two of them do the work of four people.

      • kanwal says:

        why you use an here?
        we don’t necessarily add an ‘s’ to the verb……
        all the question answer are really helpful….
        but i have memorising problem…which i read always forget…

  4. Arthur says:

    Thank you so much!

  5. Aja says:

    How about sentences that uses ‘May’ – example: May he answers or May he answer?

    • The word “may” in this case is a modal auxiliary verb. It is used in conjunction with the main verb “answer” in your example. Normally the verb would change spelling in the third person singular case (I answer, we answer, they answer but he answers, she answers). When the modal auxiliary is there, the word “answer” does not change no matter what the subject is (I may answer, you may answer, they may answer, he may answer, she may answer). The correct usage would be “May he answer?”

    • abid says:

      with some do we use s or es in the verb?
      for example if im saying

      some say people over there are funny or some says people over there are funny
      which one is correct?

      • Only verbs with a third-person singular noun or pronoun as a subject use an s or es at the end.
        The subject in your sentence is some, which is a plural pronoun in this case (it means some people). Therefore, the plural verb say is correct.

  6. Nad says:

    What about ‘people/the world/everyone/no one’ ?? is there an ‘s’ behind every verb?

    • People is plural, so you do not add an s after the verb.
      The world is singular, so it does take an s after the verb.
      Everyone and no one are indefinite pronouns, and are considered singular, so you do add an s.

      • kashish jain says:

        “why does nobody comes from here?”
        is it a correct statement and why?

        • Your sentence (a question, not a statement) is not correct because when an auxiliary or helping verb (does) is used in conjunction with the main verb, you do not add the s to the main verb. You are also missing a capital letter at the beginning of your question.
          “Why does nobody come from here?”

          A more natural way to phrase your sentence would be “Why doesn’t anybody come from here?”

  7. Pat says:

    Just wondering how did the rule come to be that there should be a “s” added to verbs when the subject is singular, and no “s” when the subject is plural? What’s the reasoning behind setting up that rule in the English language? (I’m aware of the ‘sounding right’ part, but what made the language folks decide that there should be a “s” for singular verbs etc?)
    Thanks

  8. mary says:

    if we must use s with singular verbs so why we dont use s with I :for instance I goes but we say he goes or my family goes how we can explain it with I,thanks

    • The subject-verb agreement rules apply to all personal pronouns except I and you. Even though these pronouns are singular, they require plural forms of verbs.

      • akshay says:

        what if does is used? for eg : it doesn’t suits her or it doesn’t suit her..which is the
        correct one?

        • The word does is an auxiliary in your sentence. It is used in conjunction with the main verb “suit” in your example. Normally a singular verb would be used and it would be formed by adding an s. When the auxiliary is there, the spelling of the main verb does not change.
          It doesn’t suit her.

  9. mary says:

    and my next question is that why we suppose that the word family is singular but the word people is plural,thanks again

  10. Pam Hall says:

    I teach adult ESL classes. I don’t know how to explain the verb tense when using, ‘family’. If ‘they’needs a singular verb, why does ‘family'(they) use a plural verb. ‘The family works’, but, ‘They work’.

    • The word they is plural. The plural form for the verb work is work (They work, we work). The word family is singular because it acts as a single unit. The singular form for work is works (He works, she works). The plural form of family is families.

      • confused says:

        Does 8:30am PDT work for you? Why do we not use “works” here? t Does is singular and so thus the subject the time which is singular. Why do we sue work and not works?

        • Verbs may be classified as principal or auxiliary. A principal verb is one that can stand alone to express an act or state. An auxiliary verb is used with a principal verb to form a verb phrase. In the question, “Does 8:30 am PDT work for you?” work is the main verb and does is the auxiliary. As an auxiliary verb, do or does is always followed by the base form of the main verb, which in this case is work.

      • Vanlalruata says:

        You wrote, “The singular form of work is works”
        We were taught that adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ to words makes them plural.
        Were my teachers wrong? Or am i missing some grammatical rules?
        Eagerly awaiting an answer

      • Atef tayaran says:

        Since “family” is singular, why do we use “they” in the following sentence?
        I met her family, they were very kind.

        • Our Rule 9 of Subject-Verb Agreement says, “With collective nouns such as group, jury, family, audience, population, the verb might be singular or plural, depending on the writer’s intent.” If your intent is to focus on the family as a unit, you could write I met her family, and each of them was very kind.

          If your intent is to emphasize the individuals of the family, you could write I met her family members, and they were very kind.

          (Note that we corrected your run-on sentence. In addition to our example, it could also have been written as I met her family. Each of them was very kind. OR I met her family; each of them was very kind.)

  11. Rob says:

    Wow! I learned a lot especially because of the comments together with your answers.

    This resource is exactly what I’m looking for.

    You seem to be pretty good in English.

  12. Amar says:

    I want to know how to use this sentence( no one knows or no one’s knows which one is the right)

  13. ricardo says:

    I have a question regarding use and form:
    “he seems not to be” and “he doesn’t seem to be”

    when do I use the first and the second form? which is correct? and what is the difference in use of both sentences?

    • The first example contains a split verb phrase. The word not is awkwardly placed in between the verb phrase seems to be. Although there is no exact rule being broken in this phrase, it is a matter of style. The second phrase contains the contraction doesn’t, which would not be preferred in formal writing. We recommend He does not seem to be.

  14. Katrina says:

    I really dont get it :( verb is not like noun that when you add “s” or “es” makes it plural right? How will you be able to determine if the verb is singular or plural? Verb must agree with the subject right? A singular subject must have a singular verb and a plural subject requires plural verb..

    And if i am correct, you make the verb plural by removing or not adding “s” or “es” in it?

    Thank you so much

  15. Katrina says:

    I think i just figured out the answer to my question by reading the comments. Thank you!

  16. Louis says:

    This is a good website to learn english. thank you so much.
    (I’m not so good at english, I’m French. English and French are very different language)

  17. lauren daisy says:

    my question is that when do we not have to use s with a verb for a third person?
    Or is it a must to use s with a verb for a third person in any case?

    • You need to add an s to a verb when referring to another person (singular) unless you use the pronoun you.
      Examples:
      He walks his dog every morning.
      She gets more work done when it is quiet.
      Sam goes running after work each day.
      You leave too early to carpool with us.

      • lauren daisy says:

        Thanks, but i am still confused!
        when we don’t use an s with a verb for another person?

        • Do not add an s to the verb when using the singular pronoun you. Examples: You leave too early to carpool with us. You walk your dog every morning.

          • Daniel says:

            Thanks for this blog and to answer every question, I have learned so much! Reading the Lauren’s question “when do we not have to use s with a verb for a third person?”, I think I have an answer because she said she was still confused.

            First, we do not need to use “s” in third person when there are an auxiliar verb: “He walks his dog every morning”/”He don’t walk his dog every morning”. Am I right?

            Second, I speak spanish, and third singular person is only “he, she and it”. “You” is second person and “I” first person, then only “he/she/it” are third person (in spanish). So, the rule of “add “s” in a third person except in “you”” does not work or in english “you” is considered as a third person?

            Thank you, and if I am right in my two points, is thanks to you, I have just learned it minutes ago reading your blog and answers.

            (I do not use google translator, sorry if I write something wrong)

            Best regards

          • We are pleased that you find our blogs helpful. You are correct that a verb does not require an added s after an auxiliary, however, your sentence should read “He doesn’t walk his dog every morning” or “He does not walk his dog every morning.” The singular verb does agrees with the pronoun he. You misunderstood if you thought we meant that you is third person. The pronoun you is considered second person.

  18. Faisal says:

    How would you ask question / interrogative sentence for this:-
    Q1. He took the bus.
    Ans. Did he take the bus?

    My question is why not “Did he takes the bus?”

  19. Dennis says:

    Currently this web site has the statement, “I Will Restore and Spirit of Victory and Praise International Spiritual Center presents Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith at “Revolve – Evolve 2012.”

    I am about to change this to “I Will Restore, Inc. and Spirit of Victory and Praise International Spiritual Center present Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith at “Revolve – Evolve 2012.”

    Which is correct? I believe the second is correct, which is why I am changing it. Also, I am studying for a Praxis II Exam to teach English. So on both levels this is helpful. Thanks

  20. lauren daisy says:

    When do we have to use will and would, could and can?please kindly clarify it to me its really confusing.

    And also kindly tell me that when don’t have to use an s with the verb for another person(singular)?

    • As a verb, will indicates that something is expected to happen in the future, such as We will leave tomorrow. Will is also used to ask someone to do something, such as Will you please help me find my coat?

      Would indicates what someone said or thought about what was going to happen or be done, such as She said she would come with us. Would is also sometimes used to make a request or an offer, such as Would you like to come with us?

      Can means to be able, such as He can come with us. Could is used as the past tense of can, such as Yesterday we could see the smoke from the fire.

      There are many other definitions for these words. We recommend checking Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary for more information.

      The only time you do not add s to a verb for a singular form is with the pronoun you.

  21. ana says:

    why do you use “s” after the verb when you use “everything”

    • Words like everything, anything, someone, anybody, everyone, etc. are called indefinite pronouns. They refer to an unspecified person, place, or thing. In most cases, indefinite pronouns take singular verbs, which generally end in s. Some indefinite pronouns always take a singular verb. Everything always takes a singular verb. Examples: Everything is going well at Bob’s company. Everything sounds hard.

  22. Leo Carretero says:

    I am a native spanish speaker, I agree with you, but when I found this in several web sites, it makes me feel confouse,why they add “S” to “keep”, Thanks!!

    Happiness keeps you sweet.
    Trials keep you strong.
    Sorrows keep you human.
    Failures keep you humble.
    Success keeps you glowing.
    But only God keeps you going!

    • The subject and verb must agree (singular or plural). Verb plurals are formed by removing the “s.”

      Happiness (singular) keeps (singular) you sweet.
      Trials (plural) keep (plural) you strong.
      Sorrows (plural) keep (plural) you human.
      Failures (plural) keep (plural) you humble.
      Success (singular) keeps (singular) you glowing.
      But only God (singular) keeps (singular) you going!

  23. Alwin says:

    First and foremost, thanks a bunch for posting these information. They are very useful and I bet people who read these up can really learn.

    I got another question. How about this sentence, “This plate of pasta makes your stomach go/goes crazy.” So, which is the case?

  24. Hafiz says:

    My name is Hafiz.. an Asian comes from Malaysia.. I’ve learned so many things from you (this website).. It was really great web for someone like me whom failure in English.. after I saw all the comments and reply from you, I think I’ve know how to add -s or -es for the most verbs. thanks ya for helping me

    • Hafiz, we do not think you are a failure in English at all. Your comments are understandable, though there are a few grammar errors. Learning English is not an easy thing to do and we are glad you find our website helpful. In an effort to help you continue to improve your English, we will rewrite your comments in the style of a native American English speaker.
      My name is Hafiz. I am from Malaysia. I have learned so many things from your website. It is a great website for someone like me who thinks he is a failure in English. After I saw all the comments and the replies from you, I think I know how to add -s or -es to most verbs. Thank you for helping me.

      • Ammar says:

        I respect how humble you are when you reply those comments ., and I need a solution for this..

        “I saw all the comments”

        “ALL” and “COMMENTS” in one sentence, are they correct? please explain, thanks a lot.

        • Whether to include “all” and “comments” together would be a matter of context and intent. If we write just “I saw the comments,” we could be suggesting we glanced at them or saw a few of many more. Pairing “all” with “comments” further quantifies what we saw by confirming that not one comment went unnoticed.

          • Zac says:

            I thought an adjective can only be associated to a noun. The word “comments” is a verb (an action), so the word “all” is an adverb (not an adjective) and “comments” is a verb. Correct me if I am wrong. Thank you.

          • The word “comments” in this sentence communicates things and is therefore a noun. This differs from a sentence such as “He comments on the subject” in which “comments” is a verb.

            The word “all” is an adjective that modifies the noun to communicate how many comments the speaker saw. Some might also interpret “all” as a collective noun modified by a prepositional phrase with an understood omission: “I saw all [of] the comments.”

  25. David says:

    I’m David.
    I’m from Korea in ASIA.
    So, my first language is NOT english,
    I use Korean. So, I’m bad at English,
    Especially GRAMMER!
    I learned much in your website.
    I really must thank you.
    I really didn’t knew much in adding -s.
    Thanks, really.

  26. bharat says:

    I am confused between “would” and “would be”…at which type of sentence we should use “be” after auxiliary..like “what if any earthquake would occurs than the whole building would be collapsed.” or
    “what if any earthquake occurs than the building would be collapsed” or
    “what if any earthquake would occurs than the whole building would collapsed” or
    “what if any earthquake occurs than the whole building would collapsed”

    which one is better & thanks for your reply on above comments…it’s really helpful..

    • Use would before a verb and would be before an adjective. Also, the word any in your sentence should be an and the word than should be then. It is better to make both parts of your sentence either a question or a statement instead of a mixture of the two. In addition, since you do not want to repeat the word would, use the word should first. The word then is unnecessary. For example:

      What if an earthquake should occur; would the whole building collapse? OR
      What if an earthquake should occur; would the whole building be flattened? (The phrase “building be collapsed” is awkward to a native English speaker and would not be used.)

      If an earthquake should occur, the whole building would collapse. OR
      If an earthquake should occur, the whole building would be flattened.

  27. Lisa says:

    So I guess my question would be, if there are two subjects or opposite count, which determines how we use the verb that follows?

    For example: We can also observe that, in general, the execution time of both algorithms grows slowly when epsilon grows.

    If the above sentence is grammatically correct, then I understand why “grows” after epsilon ends with “s,” but why does “grows” after “algorithms” end with “s”? Is it because the growth of the execution time is what’s linking this verb (where “time” is singular), and if so, doesn’t the plural “algorithms” imply that there are more than one execution time that’s measured?

    The same applies for the following: The output of the calls is transferred to the given nodes.

    I’m unsure as to why “is” is not “are” since “calls” is plural, but I’m also taking into consideration that “output” is singular. Which is the subject that determines how I use the verb?

    • Our Rule 2 of Finding Subjects and Verbs states “A subject will come before a phrase beginning with of.” Therefore, the subjects in each of your sentences that the verbs must agree with are time and output. Each word is singular and thus takes a singular verb. It is up to you to write your sentences to reflect what you mean:
      “. . . the execution time of both algorithms grows slowly . . .” OR “. . . the execution times of both algorithms grow slowly . . .”
      “The output of the calls is transferred . . .” or “The outputs of the calls are transferred . . .”

  28. Olga says:

    I little bit confuse how to apply ‘es’ or ‘s’ to verb when I speak about department which has more then one person.
    Department in this case is plural or singular?
    The department comply or complies?
    Department provide or provides?

    • The word department is a collective noun. Collective nouns can be tricky because they can be considered singular or plural depending on how they are used in the sentence. If these nouns are acting as a unit, use a singular verb. If the sentence is more about the people in the group than about the group as a whole, use a plural verb. It is up to the author of the sentence to make this determination. In most instances, the word department acts as a unit and is singular. If that is the case in your situation, use the singular verbs complies and provides.

      • Julian says:

        I was looking for a question similar to mine and I see Olga asked it (June 30, 2012 at 4:24 am).

        These collecitve nouns seem to be tricky indeed.
        I often come across “Team-A craete a new case and inform Team-B of it”, instead of the somehow better sounding to me “Team-A craeteS a new case and informS Team-B of it”.

        Apparently, it is really up to the author, but to me it just sounds too strange.

        Could you possibly give some good sounding example sentences of collective nouns* (considered plural) with plural verbs?

        *Company name/Department/Team/Family

        Thanks and regards! This is a great web page.

        PS: Friendly advice
        It would be great to collect determinative examples (modal verbs, auxiliary verbs, collective nouns, exceptions, etc.) from all the comments and add them to the article above. To me, the article would then reach the reader much easier.

      • asif says:

        my question is why we use s and es with third person pronoun

  29. bharat says:

    Thanks for your help exactly that I expected to be…
    I often confused while making a sentence with dual verb like
    1)she become elated.
    2)she felt elated
    3)she got dressed
    what if the sentence represents in past tense, does it make any sense to use both verb in its past tense form?
    and which one is right as i described under
    1) she becomes embarrassed taking an important decision.
    2) she becomes embarrasses taking an important decision.
    3)she becomes embarrassed while taking an important decision.

    and give me some examples which includes dual verb in different tenses…

    again thanks for your help

    • The correct usage would be “She became elated.” The sentence is past tense. “She felt elated” and “She got dressed” are both correct.
      For your second question the following are correct:

      She becomes embarrassed while making important decisions. (Note that the correct word is making, not taking.) OR
      She became embarrassed while making an important decision.

      In English we do not usually use the term “dual verbs.” Modals or auxiliaries (sometimes called “linking” or “helping” verbs) are used in conjunction with the main verb. Here are some examples:

      He will write a letter to his grandmother tomorrow. (Future tense)
      He did write a letter to his grandmother last week. (Past tense)
      He is writing a letter to his grandmother today. (Present tense)

      She will play tennis tomorrow. (Future tense)
      She did play tennis yesterday. (Past tense)
      She is playing tennis today. (Present tense)

  30. Charles says:

    Can you please give explanation the use the addition of ‘ies’ in singular subject verb agreement?

    • If the verb ends in y and is preceded by a consonant, change the y to i and add es. For verbs ending in y preceded by a vowel, just add s. Examples:

      carry, carries
      study, studies
      employ, employs
      stay, stays

  31. looly says:

    thank you so much i finally understand the grammar
    I’m ARABIC girl.
    thank you again.