This page explains grammatical agreement as it applies to verbs, nouns and pronouns.


Agreement You may find that your grammar book or online article uses the term concord to refer to agreement. is the word for the grammatical matching of the subject and the verb in a sentence. Another way to say this is that the subject and verb go together correctly. A second kind of agreement is the correct matching of a noun and its pronoun referent.

Subject-verb agreement

English has very few verb endings and the only one that learners really have to worry about is the -s ending in the present simple tense. As an example let's look at the verb to work:

1st person   
I work
We work
2nd person   
You work
You work
3rd person   
-He works
-She works
-It works
They work

It can be seen that the -s is needed in the 3rd person singular. It has to be: My father works in a bank. My mother drinks green tea for breakfast every day. Oil floats on water. [ Exception Modal verbs such as must or can do not add a -s in the third person singular ]

Of course, the same rule applies when the 3rd person subject is a pronoun. So you have to say: He works in a bank. She drinks green tea for breakfast every day. It floats on water.

You also need to remember the -s in sentences with relative pronouns. So, for example, it must be: Do you know the man who lives in the next apartment? A carnivore is an animal that eats other animals.

And don't forget the -s when the verb is used as an auxiliary: Does your mother like English food? She has forgotten her homework again.

Learners often make agreement mistakes when the noun is unexpectedly singular or plural. So, for example, everybody, news and athletics are singular, whereas people, police and jeans are plural:

  • Where is everybody going?
  • The news was bad.
  • Athletics consists of running, throwing and jumping.
  • The police are looking for the killer.
  • Most people want to be rich.
  • Your trousers are too tight!

Noun-pronoun agreement

A pronoun must agree with the noun it refers to. For example: The children played with their toys.

Choosing the right pronoun is not too difficult for most nouns. But some nouns are unexpectedly singular or unexpectedly plural, as noted above. So learners need to avoid agreement mistakes as in the following sentences:

  • Do you want to hear the news? They (It) are very good!
  • I can't find my glasses. Have you seen it (them)?
  • The police is (are) never there when you need them.

Further information

Here is a link to an introductory lesson on the topic. It explains the three agreement categories: number, gender and person, and has examples of agreement errors in the matching of nouns, pronouns , verbs and determiners.

Advanced English language learners may be interested in the aspects of agreement that even native English speakers find difficult. Here is a lesson on the topic.

Do a quiz on agreement.