nt) KEY NOUN:
Our Living Language
- The act of agreeing.
- Harmony of opinion; accord.
- An arrangement between parties regarding a course of action; a covenant.
- A properly executed and legally binding contract.
- The writing or document embodying this contract.
- Grammar Correspondence in gender, number, case, or person between words.
Speakers of vernacular dialects of English sometimes use constructions that do not conform to the standard pattern of subject-verb agreement, such as She walk, People goes,
and Pat and Terry likes the new movie.
The standard pattern calls for an -s
ending on present-tense verbs with third-person singular subjects (such as the teacher
) and no ending on verbs with any other kind of subject. Vernacular speakers smooth out this slight irregularity in one of two ways: They use -s
endings for all persons and numbers (for example, I/you/she/we/they walks
), or they use no inflection at all (for example, I/you/she/we/they go
). The tendency to regularize agreement patterns is not confined to today's vernacular dialect speakers. Subject-verb agreement has gotten progressively less complicated throughout the development of English, and today's standard pattern is far simpler and more regular than the system used in older varieties of English, in which all verbs took person/number endings, in both present and past tense. Vernacular speakers who use patterns such as she go
or the students walks
are actively carrying on the historic tradition of simplifying agreement patterns.·Some vernacular subject-verb patterns retain historic patterns that have long faded out of general American English use. For example, speakers of Scotch-Irish heritage, including those who speak Appalachian and Ozark English, tend to preserve an agreement pattern in which the -s
inflection is used more often with third-person plural subjects that refer to a group or collection of people or things than with other third-person plurals. These speakers are more likely to say People walks
or A lot of them walks
than The men walks
or Five dogs barks.
See Note at be