Session 1

In this Masterclass, Dan's going to show you 3 ways to make sure your subject nouns and verbs always agree.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

BBC Masterclass

Subject-Verb Agreement 1

I am happy. You are happy. He is happy! The subjects and verbs agree. But what about when the subject is a more complicated noun? Dan explains 3 ways to deal with difficult subject-verb agreement.

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…and I say tea is better than coffee! Oh we just can’t agree. But agreement is important, especially between subjects and verbs. Here are 3 points to help you make sure that your subjects and verbs always agree. Hit it!

I am happy. You are happy. He is happy. The verb changes because the noun changes. However, many learners still make many mistakes because of a difficult noun or noun phrase so here are some of the most common difficult ones. Go!

1: When singular and plural are the same!

'The species is on the brink of extinction.'
'The species are on the brink of extinction.'

Species is a noun whose singular and plural verb forms are exactly the same. So be careful which one you mean when you speak. Are you talking singular or plural? Here are some other examples.

2: Nouns with no plural!

'The news about the king’s death has been reported around the world.'

Now, news is a noun which despite having an ‘s’, has no plural form. This is because it is uncountable, and like all uncountable nouns, it uses a singular verb. Here are some more examples.

3: Nouns with no singular!

'The police are coming! The police are coming!'

Police is a noun which describes a collection of police officers. This means it has no singular form and always uses a plural verb. Here are some more examples.

And don’t forget objects which come in pairs like glasses and trousers

This also happens when we make an adjective into a group noun using THE.

'The British are coming! The British are coming!'

Did you get it? Of course you got it? Now for more information please log on to I’ve been Dan, you’ve been fantastic. Have a great time. Hello? What do you mean Superman is better than Batman? You don’t know anything!


Subject-Verb Agreement 1

Verbs always agree with the subject noun in a sentence:

'I always go to work early.'
'She always goes to work early.'
'We are old'
'The house is old.'

There are many types of noun and noun phrase in English, and it can be difficult to know if a particular noun takes a singular verb or a plural verb

1. When singular and plural are the same.

The species is on the brink of extinction.’ (It...)
The species are on the brink of extinction.’ (They...)

Here the noun 'species' does not change form to show a plural, even if the meaning changes. In this case, be careful about whether you are talking in the singular or plural meaning and make sure to change the verb.

Other examples: economics, sheep, politics, headquarters, series and fish (which has an alternative plural).

2. Nouns with no plural.

The news about the king’s death has been reported around the world.’  (It)

English has countable and uncountable nouns. When you want to show a plural countable noun, use an 's' e.g. a hat / 3 hats. Uncountable nouns have no plural and always use a singular verb. But, 'news' is a noun that is uncountable AND ends in an 's'

More examples: school subjects, such as mathematics, gymnastics and physics; Games, such as dominos and darts and the disease: measles.

3. Nouns with no singular

'The police are coming! The police are coming!' (They)

Some nouns in English are collective. They represent a group or number of objects together. In many cases, these nouns are considered plural: they are collections of single pieces kept together. Because of this, they take a plural verb and have no singular noun form.

More examples: staff, congratulations, cattle, thanks and fishes (an alternative plural which means the different species of fish which are in the same place).

This also applies with 'pair nouns' - nouns where two things are joined together. Examples of these are: glasses, scissors, tweezers, trousers, heaphones and tights.

'My jeans don't fit anymore!' (They)

Finally, in English we can combine the definite article THE with an adjective to create a group noun meaning 'all of...' This is common for nationalities. They also take a plural verb.

'The British are coming. The British are coming.' (They...)

How well do you understand subject-verb agreement?

8 Questions

Choose the correct option to make the subject noun and verb agree

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End of Session

That wraps up this week’s Masterclass. Remember, the choice of noun determines the choice of verb - understand the nouns, and your verb will never disagree. 

Next, join us for News Review, where we'll be discussing a major story in the news, and the language you need to understand it.

Session Grammar

  • Subject-Verb Agreement

    The subject noun dictates the verb form. 

    1. Singular and plural are the same.
    These nouns can take singular or plural verbs depending on your meaning.

    The species is on the brink of extinction.’ (It)
    The species are on the brink of extinction.’ (They)

    2. Nouns with no plural.
    Despite having an 's' these nouns are uncountable, so they use a singular verb. 

    The news about the king’s death has been reported around the world.’ (It)

    3. Nouns with no singular
    These nouns are 'collective' and represent a group. They use a plural verb. They include 'pair nouns' (objects which are always in pairs), and group nouns made from adjectives.

    'The police are coming! The police are coming!' (They)
    'The British are coming! The British are coming!' (They)
    'My jeans don't fit' (They)