When it comes to grammar, the correct agreement is, “Where does your father work” because we should add the suffix “s” or “es” to the base form of the verb when we are referring to a singular subject in the third person. This is known as the third-person singular rule.
I am well aware that for those learning English, studying grammar is one of the “ultimate fears” for a lot of international students. When do we use the present perfect tense? Is the preposition “at” only used to express time and the mother of all evil; when do we use the apostrophe?
All these rules can lead to confusion among students and may result in responses like, “Where do your father work?”
So, is this question grammatically correct?
Now that we know the precise correction to this example, how can we avoid making similar mistakes in other instances that differ in their forms? We can familiarize ourselves with some basic guidelines of the third-person singular rule to equip ourselves with the knowledge to correct all the examples of regular and even irregular verbs.
Related Reading: Father or Dad, What’s the Difference?
Who And What Is The Third-Person In A Sentence?
To know who the third person in a sentence is, we must understand who the first & second persons are.
The first-person point of view refers to the speaker who is addressing someone or something in the sentence. Whenever we talk about ourselves or things that happen to us, we use first-person pronouns. Examples of this are; I, me, mine, and myself.
The second-person point of view refers to the person being talked to by the speaker. Whenever we are addressing someone directly in the sentence, we use second-person pronouns. Examples of this are; you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves.
Finally, this brings us to the third person in a sentence. The third-person point of view is the person (or people) we are talking about in a sentence. We use third-person pronouns whenever we speak of someone or something we are not directly addressing in the sentence. Examples of this include the following: he, him, his, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves.
What Are The Third-Person Singular Rules?
First, we have to look at the altered verb endings as this is the standard practice of the rule accompanied by the correct use of verb tenses.
- Most verbs receive an “s” at the end of the base form to create the correct agreement.
Example: Instead of saying, “She sing for the school choir.” We say, “She sings for the school choir.”
- Verbs ending in the following letters (-che, -s, -she, -x, or -z) should be correctly adjusted by adding “-es.”
Example: Instead of saying, “He watch her.” we say, “He watches her.”
- Verbs ending in a consonant and “y” we change the “y” to “I” and add “-es.”
Example: Instead of saying, “My father try to help him.” we say, “My father tries to help him.”
Secondly, we have to be aware of the rules regarding the subject-verb agreement.
- Most of the errors happen when we use the present tense, as this is where the third-person singular form requires the correct agreement by adding “-s” or “-es.”
Example: When using the first-person singular, we should say, “I think about you all the time.” but, when using the third-person singular, we say, “She thinks about him all the time”
- Using a singular noun also requires a singular verb; plural nouns require plural verbs.
For example, we should say “That apple is hers” when using the singular agreement but “Those apples are hers” when using the plural agreement.
- Ordinarily, the first-person and the second-person singular and the plural verb forms are plain. Deviations from the plain form occur when referring to the third-person singular.
Example: “I run to the hills.”, “You run to the hills.” “They run to the hills” consists of the plain form due to the first and second-person view being used, but we say “She runs to the hills” because we apply the third person-singular rule.
- Exceptions to the rule do exist and they are known as irregular verbs and modals. Some examples of popular irregular verbs are; to be, to have, and to do. Popular models include; can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, and must.
Now that we are familiar with the basic rules of the third-person singular view, we can look at the exceptions. Why are irregular verbs and modals different, and what rules should we follow to modify them?
How Do Irregular Verbs Affect Our Third-Person Singular Rule?
A regular verb follows the simple pattern when changing to different tenses. We refer to this as conjugation—the verb changes when we show another person, tense, number, or mood. However, irregular verbs do not follow the simple conjugation and have unique modifications. Irregular verbs do not follow the standard rules, and we are obligated to memorize their different forms.
What follows now are some examples of irregular verbs that affect our standard rules when referring to the third-person singular:
The few verbs that fall in this category are; to have, to do, to go, and to be. Let’s take a look at how they change when we refer to the third-person in a sentence.
|Regular present||Irregular verbs (Third-person singular)|
|I have a car.||She has a car.|
|I do the dishes.||He does the dishes|
|I go to the store.||My father goes to the store.|
|I am in the kitchen||She is in the kitchen|
The verbs mentioned above are irregular because we do not follow the regular conjugation to modify them. For example, the following agreements would be incorrect to use:
|Regular present||Incorrect conjugation (Third-person singular)|
|I have a car.||She haves a car.|
|I do the dishes.||He dos the dishes|
|I go to the store.||My father gos to the store.|
|I am in the kitchen||She ams in the kitchen|
It is key to note that we only add “-es” to verbs ending in the following letters (-che, -s, -she, -x, or -z). Therefore, “to do” and “to go” are seen as irregular.
Do We Alter Modal Verbs In The Third-Person Singular?
Modal verbs are known as any verb that indicates modality. This refers to verbs expressing likelihood, ability, permission, request, capacity, suggestions, order, obligation, and advice. Examples of modal verbs are: could, can, may, might, shall, should, will, would, and must.
These modal forms do not possess participle or infinitive forms. This implies that when we apply them in the third-person singular form, they stay neutral.
|Regular present||Modal verbs (Third-person singular)|
|I must have a car.||She must have a car.|
|I can do the dishes.||He can do the dishes.|
|I should go to the store.||My father should go to the store.|
|I might be in the kitchen||She might be in the kitchen|
The modals are neutral, and therefore they do not take the endings (“-s” or “-es”) in the third-person singular. For example, the following agreements would also be incorrect to use:
|Regular present||Incorrect conjugation (Third-person singular)|
|I must have a car.||She musts have a car.|
|I can do the dishes.||He cans do the dishes.|
|I should go to the store.||My father shoulds go to the store.|
|I might be in the kitchen||She mights be in the kitchen|
Now we know that the third-person singular form has few simple rules but exceptions to them. Due to English being such a complex language that has developed over the years and been altered by different cultures, there are always exceptions to the rules.
Our only solution is to memorize these exceptions, and perhaps find yourself a good mentor to continue practicing. Luckily, we can use these rules to modify the majority of our conjugations correctly.
After earning his Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, Stuart gained experience working with families in community mental health settings and in the child protection sector. Since becoming a father himself, Stuart now works in private practice offering psychotherapy services. FatherResource is an opportunity for Stuart to share what he learns on his journey as a father with a larger audience.