Guessing Games For Third Person S

Alex Case
Fun practice for one of the most common mistakes in English, including ideas usable with levels from False Beginner.

Third person S (go/goes, do/does, feel/feels, etc) is by far the most difficult part of using the Present Simple tense, making the tense not as easy as its name might suggest. In fact, “My brother like” and “Everyone know” are common mistakes in the speaking and writing of even quite Advanced students. Some people believe that there is no point spending much time on a piece of grammar that is naturally “late acquired” in both native and non-native speakers and has little communicative function, but students are rarely satisfied with this – especially given the number of language learners for whom it is never acquired rather than late acquired! The games below are designed to contain enough fun and other useful language to make everyone happy.

1. Guess Who

Give students a set of true Present Simple sentences with the person removed, e.g. “__________ lives in my garage.” These could be personal sentences like that example, or factual ones based on cultural differences or trivia like “__________ eat 2.1 billion tons of seafood a year.” Students should use the grammar clues (whether the verb has an S or not) to try to guess the missing subject (e.g. “A street cat” and “People in my country” in the sentences above), giving clues when they get stuck. They can then write similar sentences to test each other, perhaps after some research on the internet.

2. Guess The Action

In this variation of the game above it is the verb which is blanked out, e.g. “My mother _____________ snails.” Students should guess the correct verb, making sure they also put in or leave out the third person S as appropriate, e.g. “hates”, “eats” or “poisons” in the example.

3. Guess What

Give students a list of things that different people do different things with, e.g. paper (make aeroplanes, do origami, use in the kitchen, recycle, etc) and water (drink, take a shower, put into your car, etc). One student makes statements about who does what with the thing they have chosen (e.g. “My brother puts his chewing gum in it to chew again later” for paper) until their partner guesses what they are talking about.

4. Personalised Sentence Completion

Give students a list of people they could say something about, e.g. “My parents” and “My oldest friend.” As in these examples, make sure both singular and plural forms are included. They should write true Present Simple sentences about at least half of the people. They then take turns reading out the part they have written, asking their partners to guess who they are writing about.

5. Guess Who 2

More confident students can play a similar game without any initial writing stage. They choose a person or group of people from the list and make Present Simple sentences about them like “He lives in a huge house” and “He is busy at the weekend” until their partner guesses who they are speaking about (in this case, “my favourite sportsman”).

6. Personal And General

A variation on the game above is to make the prompts a mix of general ones (e.g. “Women” and “Brothers”) and personal ones (e.g. “My wife” and “My brothers”). After guessing who is being spoken about, they can discuss whether they think the general statement is true or if their own experience is different.

7. Guess How Many

Give students a list of unusual Present Simple sentences that are probably only true for one or two people they know, if anyone, such as “know/knows someone famous” and “live/lives above the 20th floor”. They should pick one of the sentences and think about how many people they know who that is true for. They partner will then try to guess that number with sentences like “No one you know lives above the 20th floor” and “Two people you know live above the 20th floor”. They can then move onto being given a number of people and trying to make their own true sentences about that many people that their partner knows, e.g.“Only one person you know lives with a great grandparent” for “One person”.

8. Guess How Many 2

This is a variation of the activity above. Before or after a class survey, students guess how many people in the class the given Present Simple sentences are true for, giving their answers as full sentences such as “Only one person eats pasta every day”. Most of the statements should be designed so that they are probably true for between zero and three people. They can then move onto being given a number of people and trying to make their own true sentences about that many people in the class.

9. Guess When

One student picks a time and gives true sentences about what they, people they know and people generally do at that time (e.g. “My brother gets home from clubbing” and “Many people leave for work”) until their partner guesses what time they are speaking about.

10. Him, Him, Both

Bring in photos of two people who you know quite a lot about and you think are quite similar, e.g. two actors, your father and grandfather, or twins. Show all the students the two photos, e.g. by putting blown up pictures on the board. Ask students to make statements about what they think may be similar and different about those two people with sentences like “He is more popular with girls” and “They both like sport”. Any sentence which you don’t know to be false gets a point. If they get stuck you can give them clues or even a whole sentence with the subject missing, e.g. “_______ is/ are married to a foreign woman/ foreign women”.

Written by Alex Case for
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers