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Third Person Singular Simple Present Verbs

Third Person Singular Simple Present Verbs

The simple present tense in English expresses habits and routines, general facts and truths, and thoughts and feelings. In all but the third person singular, the simple present form is identical to the base form of the verb, which is defined as the infinitive without the p-word to. The following sections explain how to form the third person singular present tense form of regular English verbs as well as the forms of the four irregular English verbs in the simple present.

Forming Regular Third Person Singular Present Tense Verbs

To form the third person singular present tense form of most regular English verbs, simply affix the suffix -s to the end of the verb. For example, the following list includes the infinitive, base form, and third person singular present tense form some common English verbs:

  • to argue – argue – argues
  • to clean – clean – cleans
  • to fight – fight – fights
  • to pickle – pickle – pickles
  • to wonder – wonder – wonders

For verbs that end in an -s, -z, -x, -ch, or -sh, affix the suffix -es to the end of the verb. For example:

  • to box – box – boxes
  • to catch – catch – catches
  • to kiss – kiss – kisses
  • to watch – watch – watches
  • to wish – wish – wishes

For verbs spelled with a final y preceded by a consonant, change the y to an i and then affix the ­-es suffix. For example:

  • to apply – apply – applies
  • to copy – copy – copies
  • to identify – identify – identifies
  • to reply – reply – replies
  • to try – try – tries

Anomalous Present Tense Verbs

Unlike most English verbs that consistently take an -s or -es suffix in the third person singular present tense form, four other English verbs are irregular in the simple present. Three of these irregular, or anomalous, verbs experience consonant changes, vowel changes, or spelling changes in the third person singular form. Anomalous verbs are verbs whose conjugation schemes differ significantly from both regular and irregular verbs. For example:

  • to have – have – has
  • to do – do – does
  • to go – go – goes

The copular verb be is irregular in all persons and numbers in the simple present. For example:

  • Infinitive – to be
  • Base – be
  • First person singular – am
  • Second person singular – are
  • Third person singular – is
  • First person plural – are
  • Second person plural – are
  • Third person plural – are

Pronouncing Regular Third Person Singular Present Tense Verbs

Although all regular English verbs take either an -s or -es suffix in the plural, the suffix is pronounced differently depending on the last sound of the verb.  For verbs that end in an [s] (s, se, ce), [z] (z, ze), [š] (sh), [č] (ch), or [ĵ] (j, dge) sound, then the third person singular suffix is pronounced as [ez] (es). For example:

  • cross – crosses
  • doze – dozes
  • force – forces
  • nudge – nudges
  • rise – rises

For verbs that end in a voiceless [p] (p, pe), [t] (t, tt, te), [k] (k, ck, ke), [f] (f, gh), [θ] (th), [h] (h), or [j] (y) sound, then the third person singular suffix is pronounced as [s] (s). For example:

  • bake – bakes
  • develop – develops
  • eat – eats
  • laugh – laughs
  • write – writes

For verbs that end in a voiced [m] (m, me), [n] (n, ne), [ng] (ng), [b (b, be), [d] (d), [g] (g, ge), [v] (v, ve), [ð] (th), [w] (w), [r] (r, re), or [l] (l, ll, le) sound or any vowel sound, then the third person singular suffix is pronouns as [z] (z). For example:

  • depend – depends
  • fasten – fastens
  • grow – grows
  • sell – sells
  • travel – travels

Regular English verbs take either an -s or -es suffix in the third person singular simple present while the four irregular verbs have irregular forms. The simple present forms of verbs in English express habits and routines, general facts and truths, and thoughts and feelings.

Summary

The simple present tense in English expresses habits and routines, general facts and truths, and thoughts and feelings.

In all but the third person singular, the simple present form is identical to the base form of the verb, which is defined as the infinitive without the p-word to.

To form the third person singular present tense form of most regular English verbs, simply affix the suffix -s to the end of the verb.

Four irregular, or anomalous, verbs experience consonant changes, vowel changes, or spelling changes in the third person singular form: be, do, go, and have.

References

Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

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