Monthly Archives: September 2016

OET Writing – Making subjects and verbs agree (Part 1)

When you write in English, you have to follow a rule called subject-verb agreement. This is also known as “number agreement”, because subjects and verbs have to “agree” with one another in number. That is, if the subject of a verb is singular, then the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb must also be plural.

  1. This is simplest in the present tense: nouns become plural by adding an s, and verbs become plural by removing an s.
    1.a. The patient takes medication.
    1.b. The patients take medication.
  1. For verbs in the past simple tense (without any helping verbs), the same verb is used regardless of whether the noun is singular or plural.
    2.a. The doctor assessed the patient.
    2.b. The doctors assessed the patient.
  1. However, if a helping verb is used, then this needs to agree with the subject:
    3.a. The doctor has assessed the patient.
    3.b. The doctors have assessed the patient.

The following are all helping verbs:

Singular Plural
is are
was were
has have
does do

Practice using these different helping verbs with the sentences in examples 3.a and 3.b.

  1. Finally, the subject-verb agreement rule applies to all pronouns except I and you (singular). Even though they are singular, I and you (singular) always use the plural verb:
    4.a. I appreciate your help with this patient.
    4.b. You (singular) talk to the girl.

Remember, this is for verbs that have only one subject! Stay tuned for Part 2 – Compound subjects.

All the best with your preparation!


– Anna Brzeska, OET Teacher

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