Definitions (page 2)

nonfinite verb

Nonfinite verbs are gerunds, infinitives, or participles. That is, they are verbs that function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The collective name for gerunds, infinitives, and participles is verbals. Logically, since the verbal is functioning as an adjective, adverb, or noun, the sentence must have another verb that functions as a verb. Verbals do not inflect to indicate person, tense, or number.


A noun is a word that represents a person, a place, or a thing. In this definition a thing can be a physical thing or it can be an abstract idea. A noun may be used as a subject of a sentence, as a direct object, as an indirect object, or it may be used as the object of a preposition. Go to noun in the main directory for further explanation.

number agreement

Nouns, pronouns, and verbs can be singular or plural. The form, singular or plural, must correspond to other elements of the sentence. Below are some examples and guidelines for verb usage. Noun and pronoun guidelines follow the material on verbs.


I travel frequently. (first person singular)

You travel frequently. (second person singular)

She travels frequently. (third person singular) (Note the verb spelling change.)

We travel frequently. (first person plural)

You travel frequently. (second person plural)

They travel frequently. (third person plural)


I am sixteen.

You are sixteen.

He is sixteen.

They are sixteen.

I was a cheerleader.

You were a cheerleader.

They were cheerleaders.

She has been a cheerleader.

They have been cheerleaders.

How would you solve this verb and subject number agreement problem?

The addendum (is, are) attached to the main document.

The subject of the sentence is addendum. A dictionary lists the word as follows.

addendum (pronunciation) n., pl. -da

The n indicates that addendum is a noun. The pl. -da indicates that the listing addendum is singular, and the plural form requires the ending da. Thus, addendum is singular, and the plural form is addenda.

Next choose the singular verb to match the singular subject. Use the dictionary to determine that is should be your choice because it is singular.

The addendum is attached to the main document.

The addenda are attached to the main document.

Verb choices for compound subjects are presented below.

Jimmy and Judy are sophomores. (Compound plural or singular subjects separated by and require a plural verb)

Neither Jimmy nor Judy is eligible for the prize. (Compound singular subjects separated by nor or the word or require a singular verb.)

Neither the teacher nor the students are in the classroom. (Combination singular and plural compound subject. The subject element nearer or nearest the verb determines the verb number). (". . . students are. . . .")

Chips or cookies are his favorite snacks. (Compound plural subjects separated by or require a plural verb).

A combination singular and plural compound subject joined by the conjunction and requires a plural verb.

The Joneses and I are going to a movie in their automobile.

Following are some miscellaneous subject and verb agreement examples.

The committee is in room 106. (In this example the subject, committee, is a collective noun, i.e., a set of individuals acting as a single entity. Therefore, the verb is singular.)

The committee are in bitter disagreement. (In this example the subject, committee, is a set of individuals acting as several individuals, not as a single entity. Therefore, a plural verb is required.)

Collective noun usage is somewhat determined by custom. The first example below appears as it would in the USA. The second example appears as it would in England.

The government is rigorously combatting terrorism.

The government are rigorously combatting terrorism.

There are some English words that end with the letter (s), appear to be plural, but require a singular verb. Example sentences are shown below.

Civics is rarely discussed today.

Electronics is a relatively new subject.

The word physics is listed in a dictionary as follows.

physics (pronunciation) n. (used with a singular verb)

If you need to know whether a word is singular or plural, consult your dictionary.

verb and indefinite pronoun agreement

A dictionary will reveal the number of most of the following indefinite pronouns. They are called indefinite because they do not establish a reference to a specific person, place, or thing.


anybody Anybody is welcome.

anyone Anyone is welcome.

anything Anything is possible.

each Each band member is entitled to an award.

either Either class is acceptable to me.

everybody Everybody is coming to the party.

everyone Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

everything Everything is in order.

neither Neither process is acceptable to me.

nobody Nobody is going to the conference.

nothing Nothing is bothering me.

one One is enough for me.

somebody Somebody is in the lobby.

someone Someone is at the door.

something Something is on the window.

The following indefinite pronouns are plural.


both Both of the documents are mine.

few Few applicants are admitted to the NASA flight program.

many Many students were present for Dr. Mark's lecture.

several Several candidates were chosen.

singular or plural

all All of it is in that box.

all All of our toys are in that box.

any Any painting is expensive.

any Any of the paintings in that collection are for sale.

more More class preparation time is a valuable offer.

more More paid vacation days are a threat to the budget.

none None is satisfactory for juvenile viewing.

none None of that collection are satisfactory for juvenile viewing.


In English grammar a participle is a verb that can also be used as an adjective. The first example below utilizes the verb harass. The dictionary displays the conjugation as follows.

harass, harassed, harassing, harasses.

The harassed executive collapsed at his desk.

Harassed is used as an adjective to describe the executive. What kind of executive? Ans: harassed. This example is a past participle formed with the past tense form of the verb.

The next example utilizes a present participle. The verb is scream, and it is conjugated as follows.

scream, screamed, screaming, screams

The screaming engines blasted dust in our eyes.

Scream is a verb. The present participle form is screaming. In the example sentence screaming is used as an adjective to describe the engines. What kind of engines? Ans: screaming.

The word participle is derived from Latin. The English translation is partake or participate. Apparently the ancient English grammarians chose the word to indicate that one grammatical function, verb, also participated in another grammatical function, adjective.


A particle is a word that cannot be inflected. Some authorities indicate that particles do not belong to any of the major parts of speech. Other authorities state that the category includes some prepositions, conjunctions, and adverbs.

Examples: up, to

parts of speech

The English language utilizes eight basic functions that are called parts of speech. Each of the following eight grammatical terms identifies a necessary language function. Go to the main directory listings for expanded explanations.

adjective (word that describes which, what kind, how many)

adverb (word that indicates how, when, where, or why)

conjunction (word that joins clauses or phrases or the other parts of a sentence)

interjection (word used as an exclamatory to express surprise, alarm, or emotion)

noun (word representing a person, place, or thing)

preposition (word that relates the sentence verb to the object of the preposition)

pronoun (word that substitutues for a noun)

verb (word that conveys a sense of action or sense of state)

phrasal verb

A phrasal verb is a verb followed by an adverb or a preposition. The combination produces a result that may be understood by native English speakers, but may be difficult for nonnative speakers to understand. Some examples follow.

He shows off incessantly.

He freaked out.

She read up on the subject.

I ran into Bruce at the convention.

I had a run in with the foreman.


Consider the following sentence. Some words have been omitted.

José. . . .

Assume that José is the subject of the sentence. Our understanding of José is based on the remainder of the sentence. We could say that our understanding of José is predicated on the remainder of the sentence. The remainder of the sentence is the predicate.

José is the outstanding athlete at Centerville High School.

The subject and the predicate convey a complete thought. The essential part of the predicate is the verb. A few sentences require only a subject and a verb. Most sentences require additional grammatical components to convey an understanding of the subject.


Tense is the grammatical term used to indicate time. We are capable of thinking about things that happened in the past, things that are presently happening, and things that will happen in the future. Our sentences express time: past tense, present tense, or future tense. Additionally, there are some subtle variations within the tense categories. The verb in the sentence establishes the tense. A few basic examples are shown below. Go to verb in the main directory for further explanation.

Miss Gomez is Homecoming Queen. (present tense)

Kwadjo graduated last year. (past tense)

Samantha will graduate next year. (future tense)

During the early 1900's an English grammarian identified nearly 40 verb tense categories! We might compare that to colors. A modern computer can, theoretically, produce 16,000,000 color variations. However, humans cannot distinguish the minute differences among many of those color variations.


Voice is the grammatical term used to distinguish between a sentence subject that acts and a sentence subject that does not act. The subject of a sentence may be active (act) or passive (not act). The verb conveys the sense that the subject is active or is passive. Examples are shown below.

The grocer restocked the grocery shelves. (active voice)

The subject of the sentence is the grocer. The grocer acted. He restocked the shelves.

The grocer was paid. (passive voice)

The second sentence has the same subject, the grocer, but the subject is passive. The grocer did not act.

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