Subject Verb Agreement

The Simple Rule for Irregular Nouns

When it comes to other parts of speech Opens in new window, many English nouns are irregular in nature. This means, they don’t form their plural by the usual addition of an s–ending. Therefore, when an irregular noun is the subject of a present tense verb, the decision to implement an s–ending verb is not always an easy one.

Take for example, the following three people nouns:

ManChildWoman

Each of these nouns is used to talk about a single individual:

  • The man seems taller.
  • The woman is cheerful.
  • The child speaks a foreign language.

The noun doesn’t have an s–ending, so when it is the subjectOpens in new window of a present tense verbOpens in new window, we use an s–ending on the verb.

But let’s take a look at the plural forms of these nouns:

SingularPlural
manmen
childchildren
womanwomen

Each of these three plurals all end in en. (By the way, this should hopefully make it more simple for you to remember which is which.) So, when each one of these plural nouns are used as a subject of a present tense verb, there is no s–ending to remind us not to use an s–ending on the verb, as indicated below:

  • The men seem taller.
  • The children speak foreign languages.
  • The women are more cheerful.

What you should bear in mind, is that, (this is true for all irregular nouns) a present tense verb gets no s–ending when its subject is a plural noun.

Another tricky group of nouns are those that form the plural with a vowel change:

SingularPlural
mousemice
footfeet

There is also a group of words that are difficult for the opposite reason: these nouns indicate fields of study or branches of knowledge:

  • Mathematics
  • Linguistics
  • Economics
    These nouns are the names of single subjects. So, even though the nouns have s–endings, the verb must get an s–ending, too, as:
  • Economics gives me confusion.

Anytime you come across such nouns, just think of them as having a natural s–ending, then things should be a lot easier for you.

You will often find names of several diseases tagged with an s–ending; they work this way, too. They are still one disease despite ending in S.

See examples below:
  • Hiv/Aids has killed thousands.
  • Tuberculosis is becoming less viral.

Meanwhile, you shouldn’t be carried away with this rule, because sometimes, words that fall into this category are dynamic and variable in certain contexts. When they are used to express certain subject areas, they are considered singular; and as divergent as they can be, when they are used in some other context, they are considered plural.

See examples below:
  • Politics is a fascinating subject.
  • A person’s politics change as circumstances change.

In the second sentence, politics is used to indicate a person’s “political views.”

There also are those words that end in –s and are usually plural, although their meaning is actually singular.

Consider the following:
  • Pants are acceptable office wear for women nowadays.
  • The scissors are in my desk drawer.