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Basic Grammar and Punctuation

An AARC writing resource

Subject / Verb Agreement

How To Check Verbs

Below are some common verb errors and how to check for them. For more on what verbs are, see the Review page in the pull-down menu on the Verb tab.

Common Error #1:
Using verbs correctly means the verb should match the subject of the sentence. The who of the sentence,whether it's I, you, or they, determines the form of the action. For example:
Wrong  He listen carefully in class. (3rd person subject, but 1st person verb)
Right – He listens carefully in class. (3rd person subject, and 3rd person verb)
Common Error #2: Using verbs correctly also means choosing the right tense. Tense refers to the time indicated by the verb. You should stay in whatever tense you started in throughout your paper. For example:
Wrong – He asked me to dinner, ordered an expensive meal, then leaves me the check. (Asked and ordered are in past tense, but leaves is present tense. When did the action take place?)
Right – I go to school, hurry to work, and then fall asleep at the end of day. (All present tense)

Not every verb follows the standard format. The most common helping verb is irregular:

To Be



1st person

I am

We are

2nd person

You are

You are

3rd person

He, she, it is

They are


Common Error #3: Sometimes students get the the past participle form of the verb mixed up with the simple past tense.

The participle form of the verb looks like the action, but it acts like an adverb. It describes the action. It can complete the verb, but it is not the verb itself. It must be combined with a helping verb such as isFor example:

Wrong – I seen my friends over the weekend. 
Right – I saw my friends over the weekend. 
Right – I had seen my friends over the weekend.