3rd Person/Singular/Simple Present

Third-Person, Singular, Simple Present

What is it?

Under very special circumstance, verbs in English take an extra "-s" suffix:

Concepts: Third Person (Person)

There are THREE possible parties to a conversation:
The person speaking:


The person being spoken to:


Some other person
not in the conversation:


Person, First Person, Second Person, Third

Concepts: Singular (Number)

Fortunately, this one is simpler.

Note in the following two examples that the person or persons being referred to are:

The only difference is that the first is an example of the Singular and the second is an example of the Plural:

Third Person
Simple Present
Third Person
Simple Present
Count, Singular Count, Plural

Concepts: Simple Present (Tense/Aspect)

The Simple Present is not really about the present, and it's actually not all that simple!

Much of the time, it's used to talk about a fact.

For example, consider the two sentences in the previous section:

He has a dog.
They have a dog.

These are both statements of fact. This is one typical use of the Simple Present—to state a fact or to say something that is "always" true, at all times (in the Past, Present, or Future).

Forming the 3rd-Person/Singular/Simple Present

There are a few rules involved in forming this conjugation of the verb.

. Normally, you simply add an "-s" to the end of a verb to create the 3rd-Person/Singular/Simple Present

rub rubs
ride rides
dream dreams
see sees
snow snows
drink drinks
sleep sleeps
write writes

But there are exceptions!

. If a verb ends with -sh, -ch, -ss, or -x you add an -es to the end of the verb.

If you say these words out loud, you'll see that this makes sense for pronunciation; they sound right when spoken:

push pushes
teach teaches
kiss kisses
fix fixes

. If the verb ends in a <vowel> + -y, add -s to the verb

pay pays
buy buys

. If the verb ends with a <consonant> + -y, you change the y to i and add -es

cry cries
study studies

. Finally, the verbs have, go, do, and be are irregular

That means that you'll just have to commit them to memory!:

have has
go goes
do does
be is

Misusing the 3rd-Person/Singular/Simple Present

By misuse I mean either:

I think ESL students make these mistakes for two reasons:

The first kind of error usually comes down to not being aware of the Tense/Aspect or Person of the Subject. As these are relatively easy things to observe about the Subject, my advise to you is simple:

Be Careful and Pay Attention!!!

But the second type of error, mistaking the Count of the Subject, can be trickier. Let's look at two examples of this second common error.

. Example ONE: A common "demon"

For example, consider this sentence:

*The United States have an important task to do.

This is an example of a grammar "demon," (grammar troublemaker) which fools many students.

The mistake here is that people think the "United States" is plural. Indeed, there are multiple states (50 of them), but they are united, which means they comprise one unified country. Therefore, the "United States" is singluar:

The United States has an important task to do.

. Example TWO: The hidden singular Subject!

Let's look at a more complex example, since this is where a lot of ESL students trip up:

*This combined influence of executive power and diplomatic ability make the College President's office an effective force for positive change.

The problem is with the verb "make"; it needs the "-s" suffix.

A Singular Influence Many students make the mistake of thinking the Subject in a sentence like this is plural. It's not. It's singular.

The noun at the heart of the Subject is "influence."

You can see there are two parts to that influence, but that it is one influence. NOTICE: "Influence" is singular, "Influences" is plural! The trick was finding the core Subject noun—"influence"—and observing that it is singular:

This combined influence of executive power and diplomatic ability makes the College President's office an effective force for positive change.