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ENG 110 and 110L: Nouns and Verbs


A noun is a person, place or thing.  Many common nouns can be singular or plural. Singular means one. Plural means more than one.   We make many nouns plural by adding ‘-s'.

Singular Plural
book books
dog dogs
table tables
pillow pillows
apple apples

Here are some example sentences.

  • I have one brother and 3 sisters.
  • She has a dog and two cats.
  • There are many houses in the neighborhood.
  • How many pillows do you have?
  • Can I have one cookie?

Some nouns change in a little different way. Here are 3 rules:
1. If a singular noun ends in "-s, -x, -z, -ch, -sh" then we make the plural form by add ‘-es'.

Singular Plural
bus buses
box boxes
wish wishes
bench benches
dish dishes
church churches
brush brushes

2. If a singular noun ends in "consonant+ y" then we make the plural dropping the ‘y' and adding ‘-ies'.

Singular Plural
strawberry strawberries
library libraries
spy spies
city cities
baby babies

But if the word ends in "vowel + y", then we just add an ‘-s'.

Singular Plural
toy toys
kidney kidneys
monkey monkeys

3. If a singular noun ends in "-f" or "-fe" then we make the plural form by changing the "f" to "v" and adding ‘-es'. The easiest way to understand is to see examples.

Singular Plural
wolf wolves
knife knives
leaf leaves

Here are a few example sentences.

  • I saw one wolf, but my brother says he saw 3 wolves.
  • She loves to cook, so she has many knives in her kitchen.
  • There are many leaves on the ground.

4. If a word ends in "-o" there are no definite rules. Sometimes we add ‘-s' and sometimes we add ‘-es'.  Here is a list of ones that are good to know.

Singular Plural
hero heroes
avocado avocados
potato potatoes
tomato tomatoes
torpedo torpedoes
zoo zoos
studio studios


A verb shows the action (read, walk, run, learn), or state of being (is, am, are, were) in the sentence. Identify the verb by asking what is happening in this sentence?  

For example:
  • We ran to the store.
  • My father is an excellent cook.
Verbs also tell the time when the action took place.
  • I teach school. (present tense)
  • We walked home from school. (past tense)
Common Error #1:
Using verbs correctly means choosing the correct form. It 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)
  • Correct – He listens carefully in class. (3rd person subject, and 3rd person verb)
In the present tense, note how he, she, and it use a verb with an s.
Present tense
1st person
I listen
We listen
2nd person
You listen
You listen
3rd person
He, she, it listens
They listen

Not every verb follows the standard format. The three most common helping verbs are irregular:



1st person

I am

We are

2nd person

You are

You are

3rd person

He, she, it is

They are

1st person
I have
We have
2nd person
You have
You have
3rd person
He, she, it has
They have
1st person
I do
We do
2nd person
You do
You do
3rd person
He, she, it does
They do
Common Error #2: 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 form of is or has.  

For example:
  • Wong – I seen my friends over the weekend. 
  • Correct– I saw my friends over the weekend. 
  • Correct – I had seen my friends over the weekend.

Common Error #3: 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.

The past tense of most verbs is formed by adding ed to the end.
Past tense
1st person
I listened
We listened
2nd person
You listened
You listened
3rd person
He, she, it listened
They listened
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?)
  • Correct – I go to school, hurry to work, and then fall asleep at the end of day. (All present tense)

Active and Passive Verbs

When we talk about active and passive verbs, we usually talk about voice.  In the active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb, while in passive voice, the subject receives the action.  Look at the difference in the following two sentences:

The cat scratched Joanna.

Joanna was scratched by the cat.

Passive voice always includes forms of the verb to be (is, was, is being, etc.)  Generally speaking, you should try to use the active voice whenever possible.

Karate lessons are being taken by Roberta. (passive)

Roberta takes karate lessons. (active)

Source:  McKendree University