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Because countable nouns can be either singular or plural, it is very important to use the correct subject-verb agreement when they are functioning as the subject of a clause.

Subject-verb agreement refers to using certain conjugations of verbs for singular subjects and using other conjugations for plural subjects. This happens most noticeably with the verb to be, which becomes is or was with singular subject nouns and are or were with plural subjects.

For example:

• “My brother is back from college.” (singular present simple tense)


• “The company was in financial trouble.” (singular past simple tense)

• “Many people are getting frustrated with the government.” (plural present simple tense)

• “The computers were rather old.” (plural past simple tense)

For any other verb, we only need to make a change if it is in the present simple

tense. For most verbs, this is accomplished by adding an “-s” to the end if it is

singular and leaving it in its base form if it is plural. For example:

• “My father runs his own business.” (singular) • “But his sons run it when he’s away.” (plural)

• “The dog wags his tail when he is happy.” (singular) • “Dogs sometimes wag their tails when they’re angry or scared.” (plural)

The verbs have and do also only conjugate for singular subjects in the present simple tense, but they have irregular forms for this: has and does. For example:

• “The apple has a mark on it.” (singular) • “All the apples have marks on them.” (plural) • “The teacher does not think it’s a good idea.” (singular)

• “The other teachers do not mind, though.” (plural)

Finally, the modal auxiliary verbs will, would, shall, should, can, could, might, and must do not conjugate for singular vs. plural subjects—they always remain the same. For instance:

• “This phone can also surf the Internet!” (singular) • “Most phones can do that now.” (plural)

• “The president will arrive in Malta next week.” (singular) • “The other diplomats will arrive shortly after that.” (plural)

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