Identifying and using correct verb tense and agreement

Verbs create the relationship between the subject and the object of the verb.

The verb is the element that expresses what is happening in a sentence and locates it in time (tense). In broad terms the tense will be past, present or future, for example 'Sarah laughed', 'Sarah laughs', 'Sarah will laugh'. Participles (verbs ending in –ing) do not locate a verb in time and need a finite component to indicate when the event happens. For example, the participle running needs the finite auxiliaries was running (past), is running (present), will be running (future) to indicate when the running occurred. Verbs are central to a clause.

Verbs occur both as single words and as verb groups. Verb groups can contain two or more verbs and are sometimes called complex/compound verbs. They may include non–finite verbs (for example, ''to jump' in 'is going to jump').

Verbs must agree with their subject in number. For example

  • He jumps.  (Singular subject and not a plural verb– singular verbs end with's')
  • They jump. (Plural subject and not a singular verb– plural verbs do not end with 's')

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: subject-verb agreement rap

Students work with the teacher and the following information to create their own rap or mnemonic for the following.

  • Most nouns add “s” to show they are plural
  • Most verbs lose “s” to agree with plurals.

Activity 2: tense changing cubes

Working with a partner students either answer orally or write responses. Have two cubes ( with one of these word endings –ed, –ed, –ing, –ing, –s, –s on each face. The other cube has regular verbs. Students throw both dice and they write the word and the way it ends (following the rules) on a personal whiteboard or piece of paper. Students identify tense and use the verb in a sentence to a partner.

Variation: repeat with irregular verbs.

Activity 3: bean bag toss

Students form a circle.

A bean bag is tossed to different students who must change the tense of the verb and put it in a sentence. Whenever a student makes a mistake, he or she has to leave the circle. The last student left standing gets a reward sticker or other prize.

Variation 1: Two teams stand across from each other and throw the bean bag/s. Teacher calls out the sentence and the tense to change to. Team with the most correct and interesting answer wins.

Variation 2: The teacher has a number of singular and plural nouns on the board. Two teams take it in turn to throw the bean bag to the opposition who must use whatever the thrower indicates – either singular or plural noun in a sentence with the matching verb type.

Online resources

Regular verbs

Irregular verbs


Australian curriculum reference

ACELA1481: Understand that a clause is a unit of grammar usually containing a subject and a verb and that these need to be in agreement.

NSW syllabus reference

EN2-9B: Uses effective and accurate sentence structure, grammatical features, punctuation conventions and vocabulary relevant to the type of text when responding to and composing texts.

NSW literacy continuum reference

WRIC9M7: Aspects of writing, Cluster 9, Marker 7: Chooses verbs, adverbials, nouns and adjectivals to express specific ideas and details.

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