and number of the verbs; the ending est or st showed that the verb was in the second person singular to agree with its subject thou, and the ending eth or th showed that the verb was in the third person singular to agree with its subject he or she or it. In the English spoken to-day the verb has no ending for the second person singular, and s has taken the place of eth and th as the ending of the third person singular.

These facts teach the following important principle:

The verb agrees with its subject in number and person.

Meaning of the Principle.

In the whole range of English grammar there is not a more important principle than the one just stated. It is necessary, therefore, to understand exactly what it means. It does not mean that the verb must have a different ending every time the number or person of the subject changes. An ending is a mere label, and the omission of a label does not affect the nature of the thing labeled. As all verbs, with the exception of the verb to be, have lost their endings for person and number, except the ending s, the visible agreement of the verb with its subject is merely a question of the right use of s. Mistakes in agreement are rarely made when the subject is a personal pronoun: only the most illiterate say I does, or They calls. But mistakes are frequently made, especially in conversation, when the subject is a noun. As noun subjects are always in the third person singular or third person plural, the verb either ends in s or has no ending at all. It ends in s when the noun subject is singular; it has no ending when the noun subject is plural:

1. John has finished his task.
2. The men have not finished theirs.
3. Susan's canary lives in a cage.
4. Most birds live in the woods.
5. This child speaks excellent English.
6. Her playmates speak incorrect English.
7. Laurinda loves to play on the piano.
8. Boys love to hunt and fish.
9. My dog does more barking than biting.
10. My neighbor's dogs do nothing but howl.
II. It takes two halves to make a whole.
12. The children take their lunches to school.

Compound Subjects.

A subject is plural not only when it consists of one noun or one personal pronoun in the plural number but also when it consists of two or more members; that is, when it is compound (Chapter XLVII):

1. Tennyson and Browning grow in popularity the more they are studied.

2. A dog and a cat do not often agree well together.
3. The violet and the hyacinth bloom about the same time.
4. These parents and their child have nothing to live on.
5. He and I go to the hospital nearly every day.

The Collective Noun as Subject.

A collective noun takes sometimes a singular predicate, sometimes a plural predicate (Chapter LIX):

1. The jury has just retired.
2. The majority say that they cannot reach a decision.

3. The committee decides unanimously in favor of the affirmative.

4. The people of the United States take great interest in political discussions.

The Relative Pronoun as Subject.

Relative pronouns, as we have seen, have no distinctive forms for singular and plural; but they agree in number with their antecedents. If the antecedent, therefore, is plural, the predicate of the relative clause must be plural; if the antecedent is singular, the predicate must be singular :

1. The men that do things are the men that succeed.

2. The boy and girl that wish to desk together are brother and sister.

3. The animals that live out of doors are hardier than those living indoors.

4. Here is a man who compels respect by his very presence.

5. The church on our right, which has stood the wear and tear of more than eighty years, was built during the presidency of Andrew Jackson.


I Write ten sentences illustrating the difference between predicates in s and predicates without s.

II Insert do or does in each of the following blanks; give a reason for your choice:

1. These debaters - not seem to have made much preparation. 2, Is there a boy in the world who not love his mother?

3. The senate not meet this year.

4. Even the captain and mate, who usually — not shrink from any danger, have been convicted of cowardice.

5. The prisoner and his accomplice — not admit their guilt

III Insert has or have in each of the following blanks; give a reason for


choice: 1. He says that every one of his constituents signed the application.

2. Not one of our neighbors — been here.

3. They have recommended every novel and essay that – been read.

4. My uncle and my aunt, who been visiting in Atlanta, returned yesterday.

5. Sufficient data — not been given to solve the problem. 6. Not a boy in the class — prepared this lesson thoroughly.



Person and Number of Verbs Denoting Past Time.

The verb forms given in the beginning of the preceding chapter denote present time. The same verbs may be made to denote past or completed action :

[blocks in formation]

1. I spoke
2. you spoke
3. he spoke

you loved

you did

you had

he loved

he did

he had


1. we spoke 2. you spoke 3. they spoke

we loved you loved they loved

we did you did they did

we had you had they had

A glance at these forms shows that the three persons are alike in both numbers. There is no letter s to be added ; hence no mistake can be made in the forms of person or number. In the older language, st or est had to be added in the second person singular. The Bible has :



I spake
thou spakest
he spake

we spake
ye spake
they spake

Some Forms of the Verb “to be."

Compare the following forms; observe that those in the first column denote present time, those in the second column past time:


I. I am

I was

2. you are

you were

3. he is

he was


I. we are

we were

2. you are 3. they are

you were they were

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