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What Are Verbs With “S”?

Updated on February 26, 2024Grammar

When you spy a verb ending in the letter s—such as dances, fries, or feels—you are looking at that verb in a conjugated (also known as inflected) form. Regular English verbs form the third-person singular simple-present tense by adding –s or –es to their stem or root form.

Here we’ll learn about verbs that end in s, including what they mean in grammar and how to use them correctly.

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What are verbs ending in s?

When a regular verb appears in the third-person singular simple-present tense, it takes on an –s ending—unless it ends in ch, s, sh, x, or z, in which case the ending is –es:

  • Ahmet cooks so well.
  • He knows precisely what ingredients and tools to use.
  • The tree next to our subway stop loses its leaves earlier than the others on the block.
  • The extension cord that the lamp is plugged in to reaches across the room.

Verb conjugation and verbs with –s

Verbs have more than one essential job in a sentence. On top of describing a specific action (or the existence of a specific feeling or state), they also provide context about the time and conditions of the action they describe and supply or reinforce information about the subject of the sentence.

Verbs communicate these contexts through conjugation: how they change form to show the properties of number, person, tense, voice, and mood. When verbs add the –s ending, they communicate that they are singular in number, third person in person, and simple present in tense. (They are also indicative in mood and active in voice, but those properties are not as relevant to this discussion as the other three.)

Understanding the third-person singular simple-present tense

There is only one conjugation of regular English verbs where the stem form of the verb changes to distinctively show tense, person, and number. That conjugation is the third-person singular form of the simple-present tense, and the change it makes is to add –s or –es. Take a look at this sentence:

She sometimes wishes she had moved to a different neighborhood.

The verb in the sentence is wishes. It agrees in both person (third) and number (singular) with the subject of the sentence, which is the third-person singular personal pronoun she, and the action it describes (wishing) is ongoing and/or habitual, which calls for the present tense.

If the subject is a noun, the verb also takes the third-person form:

Luna sometimes wishes she had moved to a different neighborhood.

The rest of the conjugations in the simple-present tense do not change at all. They are all the stem of the infinitive to wish, which is the word wish—regardless of person or number:

  • I wish
  • We wish
  • You wish
  • They wish

Note that conjugations of regular verbs in the simple-past tense are all identical, regardless of person or number:

  • I wished
  • We wished
  • You wished
  • He/she/it wished
  • They wished

So the fact that verbs in the third-person singular simple-present tense change form by adding –s makes them unique.

Exceptions to the rule

Irregular verbs

All of the verbs we’ve looked at so far have been regular because when regular verbs are conjugated, they change their forms in predictable ways. There are thousands of regular verbs in the English language, as well as around two hundred irregular verbs. However, almost all of those irregular verbs are irregular only in their simple-past and past-participle forms and thus still form the third-person singular simple present by adding –s.

For example, give is an irregular verb; its simple-past and past-participle conjugations are not gived but rather gave and given, respectively. But in the simple present, give conjugates regularly:

  • I give
  • We give
  • You give
  • He/she/it gives
  • They give

There are very few verbs that are irregular in the present tense, and it is almost always only in the third-person singular of the simple present that they show that irregularity (in addition to in their simple-past and past-participle forms). The verbs that follow that pattern are to have, to do, and to go—along with some others that have those as roots and are conjugated in the same way as their root, such as undo, redo, forgo, and undergo. Here are how those verbs are conjugated in the simple present:

  • I have
  • We have
  • You have
  • He/she/it has
  • They have
  • I do
  • We do
  • You do
  • He/she/it does
  • They do
  • I go
  • We go
  • You go
  • He/she/it goes
  • They go

As you can see, to have, to do, and to go are all regular in the simple present in their first- and second-person singular and plural forms and their third-person plural forms.

There is just one verb that is irregular in other present-tense forms in addition to the third-person singular, and that is the most irregular verb in the English language: to be.

  • I am
  • We are
  • You are
  • He/she/it is
  • They are

Singular they subject

There is one circumstance in which regular verbs appearing with third-person singular subjects in the simple-present tense don’t add an –s, and that is when the subject is the gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun they:

  • They hope their class schedule will be more manageable this semester.
  • Rain or shine, they like to go for their daily afternoon run.

Like the second-person pronoun, you, they has the same form whether singular or plural and is always used with plural verb forms, even when singular:

  • You seem to be the best whistler here.
  • You two seem to be the best whistlers here.
  • They feel like the luckiest person in the world.
  • They both feel like the luckiest people in the world.

Subject-verb agreement

As we discussed above, one of the purposes of verb conjugation is to reinforce information about the subject of a sentence. This is what we mean when we talk about subject-verb agreement; the verb in a sentence must match the subject in both person and number.

Here are a few more examples of sentences using third-person singular simple-present conjugations of regular verbs. In these examples, both the subject and the verb are in bold so you can clearly see how they agree in person and in number:

  • The list I’m looking at includes both names and addresses.
  • Canada observes Boxing Day as a public holiday every December 26.
  • She removes her shoes before going into her apartment.

Notice that all three of the subjects—the common noun list, the proper noun Canada, and the personal pronoun she—are singular and in the third person. Although nouns in English aren’t generally considered to have the grammatical property of person in the way that pronouns do, they automatically refer to someone or something other than the speaker (I, the first person) or the person being spoken to (you, the second person), so they receive third-person verbs just like the third-person pronouns (he, she, they, and it) do.

A mistake to avoid

If you look back through the example sentences in this post, you’ll notice that all the nouns appearing as subjects with verbs that end in s don’t themselves end in s. This is the only tricky thing to learn about using verbs ending in s: They have to be in agreement with their subjects, but when they are in agreement with their subjects and their subjects are nouns, their endings don’t match those of their subjects.

While regular verbs add –s to their stems to form their third-person singular simple-present tense, the regular singular nouns that go with them do not add an –s; such nouns only add an s to their singular forms to become plural:

  • Singular: The store opens at ten o’clock.
  • Plural: Both stores open at ten o’clock.
  • Singular: The hen pecks intently at the corncob.
  • Plural: The hens peck intently at the corncob.

Try remembering it this way: To be in agreement, the subject and verb must behave oppositely.

Examples of verbs with –s

There are thousands of regular verbs in English, which means there are thousands of verbs that form the third-person singular simple-present tense by adding –s to their infinitive stem. Here are several more examples:

  • to disappear → disappears
  • to float → floats
  • to request → requests
  • to fasten → fastens
  • to wait → waits
  • to care → cares
  • to protect → protects

Verbs with –s FAQs

What are verbs that end in s?

Verbs with an –s ending are regular verbs conjugated in the third-person singular-present tense.

What is verb conjugation, and how does it relate to verbs that end in s?

Verb conjugation is the way that verbs change form based on their properties. Number, person, and tense are three of the properties that verbs express through their conjugation, and a verb with an –s indicates that it is singular in number, third person, and present tense.

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