I need help understanding when to use ‘take’ or ‘takes’.
  1. She insists that he take the dog for a walk.
  2. He takes the dog for a walk.

Is the difference between take and takes due to singular and plurals? In the first sentence the subject is one dog, but in the second sentence it appears there are multiple takings of the single dog?

A quick search in Google revealed the following sentences:

  1. Can he take the house?
  2. He will take the blame
  3. My baby takes the morning train…
  4. He takes the tribe…

I am starting to see a pattern. If the mood is indicative then takes should be used, but if it has a modal auxiliary verb (must, might, may, shall, should, can, could, will or would) then take should be used

  1. He takes his time or Person takes his time (
  2. He will take his time or Person to take his time

So I assume the decision on whether to use take or takes is a combination of the amount of the subject, the mood and type of auxiliary verb.


I think I have way over complicated this. If I substitute words in my example it makes more sense.

  1. She insists that he dance.
  2. He dances.

The difference can be further highlighted by:

  1. She insists that he dance.
  2. She insists that he dances.

The first sentence implies do it right now and once. The second sentence implies at do it at some point or multiple times. Oh dear, I still don’t really understand this :( Help!


  1. Goatwriter

    You could always be a bit Pam Ayres and say “I takes the s’s off me words”

    I think it’s about the tense and the subject but you should take the s off if the sentence still holds up without it.

    “She insists that he dances” only reads like she’s convincing someone that this guy ‘does’ dancing, like he goes to a salsa class or jumps around the lounge each night listening to metal, it wouldn’t be a comment on the future or strictly in the past or a multiple because those wouldn’t need an s.

    I take the s off words.
    Francis takes the s off words.
    - Regularly or as we’re watching (actively).

    Francis never used to take the s off his words (implies that you’ve changed your behaviour now, instead of ‘never took’ which wouldn’t be so hopeful.)

    So I wonder if Dances with Wolves was about someone who regularly danced with wolves or a few dances that were attended by wolves?

    115:212 11:52, Dec 03 2007

  2. Margret

    Well thought I was good at grammar but this is too complicated for me! My rule – if it sounds right then it probably is.

    115:213 13:29, Dec 03 2007

  3. mummybot

    Haha Dances with wolves. Great!

    115:214 21:32, Dec 03 2007

  4. Rachel

    “I think I have way over complicated this”

    Totally agree :-)

    I did come to the conclusion that ‘takes’ will not be used in first person singular & plural or in third person plural.

    115:219 12:23, Dec 07 2007

  5. mummybot

    Very true. I takes the dog for a walk makes no sense, neither does they takes the dog for a walk.

    115:220 21:17, Dec 07 2007

  6. Marieke

    I think you should get out more…

    115:226 23:44, Dec 13 2007

  7. Alastair

    My understanding is that …

    “She insists that he take the dog for a walk.” is one of the few remaining cases in English where the subjunctive is used instead of the indicative.

    The subjunctive is an old carry-over from Germanic times. It used to be very widely used in medieval English, but was slowly replaced by auxiliaries like “would”, “might”, “could” etc.

    English also used to be inflected. Today pretty much no inflections remain, which means that the subjunctive looks the same as the infinitive, the 1/2 person singular, etc.

    The subjunctive tense is only used in hypothetical/unrealised sorts of situations, like the one above. The insisting is stated as fact (hence, it doesn’t say “She instist”), but the thing being insisted isn’t actual, so is instead stated subjuctively:

    “She insists (indicative) that he take (subjunctive) the dog for a walk.”

    Compare this with a sentence where the subordinate (second) clause doesn’t introduce something unrealised:

    “She likes that he takes the dog walking.”

    All of this seems to depend on some kind of learning that we’ve all done without ever realising it. Replace ‘insists’ with ‘implores’, ‘demands’, ‘requests’ then it can only rightly be subjunctive. Replace it with ‘considers’, ‘knows’, ‘sees’, ‘remembers’ then it can only be subjunctive.

    It gets even weirder though if you make it “she wishes” …

    Overall, this is proof that its better not to know at all, and just to follow your instinct, because knowing all this stuff doesn’t make it the least bit more intelligible.

    115:230 2:10, Jan 06 2008

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