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I received this question from a non-native English speaker and was not sure how to answer it.

We can see that the noun "like", when used with pronouns, can be defined in singular and plural as:

  • like = I, we, you, they ("I like running", "We like running"... etc)

  • likes = He, she, it ("He likes running"... etc)

First question: What is the rule that defines whether or not the singular or plural form of like will be used with the pronoun? "They" and "we" are both plural but receive the singular form of like. Why? Likewise, he/she/it is singular but receives the plural form.

But there are exceptions. Let's take the pronoun he and look at the following cases:

  • "He likes to watch movies"
  • "He doesn't like to watch movies"
  • "He does like to watch movies"
  • "Does he like to watch movies?"

As you can see, auxiliary verbs, questions, and negations appear to alter this rule so that he could be paired with "like" or "likes" depending on the context.

So, related to the first question, when do other contextual things alter the basic rules that defines the usage of "like" and "likes"? Do gerund forms and infinitives with "like" change the context too?

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    This may be of help to you. – StoneyB Sep 16 '15 at 15:29
  • I believe like in those sentences is a verb, not a noun. Just like we'd say I eat ice cream, you eat ice cream, she eats ice cream, we'd say I like running. You like running. She likes running. Where did you get the idea that likes was a plural noun? – J.R. Sep 16 '15 at 17:12
  • @ J.R. "Where did you get the idea that likes was a plural noun". By not understanding English grammar rules well (and therefore my question)! I just saw the verb "to watch" and assumed that was the verb in the sentence. I did not know that it was functioning as the direct object as part of the phrase until it was pointed out to me in the answer below. And since the noun form of like has a plural form ("likes") I made the a (clearly) false assumption. I understand now thanks to all of you. – syntonicC Sep 16 '15 at 19:03
  • Could the downvoter please explain the reason for their vote so I can form better questions here in the future? I researched this question before I asked it but due to the numerous incorrect assumptions you see above it was difficult to find the information I needed through a Google search. – syntonicC Jan 22 '16 at 22:12
  • The question should be edited in my opinion, because it's conjugation forms, not "singular form of like". – Quidam May 9 '17 at 9:24
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This has nothing to do with singular/plural and everything to do with verb conjugation, mostly because like, as it's used here is a verb, not a noun.

  • "He likes to watch movies"
    • Third person singular present tense.
  • "They like to watch movies"
    • Third person plural present tense.
  • You like
    • Second person present tense
  • "He doesn't like to watch movies"
  • "He does like to watch movies"
  • "Does he like to watch movies?"
    • All three of the above are infinitive.
  • Could you go into more detail? In "He likes to watch movies" I thought that "watch" is the verb. Are you saying that "likes" is not the plural noun form but just how the verb looks when conjugated? I am obviously not very good at grammar so you may have to be a bit more detailed. Thanks! – syntonicC Sep 16 '15 at 15:19
  • Figured I needed to be a little more in-depth. Both to like and to watch are verbs, but in this sentence, the verb to watch serves as the object. Like is still the verb. When identifying the verb in a sentence, ask yourself, "what is the subject doing?" In this case, the answer is "Likes". To identify the object, ask "What is the action being carried out on?" In this case, "What does he like?" the answer, "to watch movies." – J A Terroba Sep 16 '15 at 15:23
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    The form suffixed with -s is third person singular present. – StoneyB Sep 16 '15 at 15:33
  • As @StoneyB points out - third person plural present would be "They like". It's worth drawing the distinction even if you aren't trying for an exhaustive list. – Jon Story Sep 16 '15 at 15:47
  • Alright, I understand the -s, it's the same as "he runs" v. "they run". But what about the infinitive cases? If "to watch movies" is still acting as an object in those sentences then why is the verb form "like"? Is the answer the same as the comment from @FumbleFingers on my question? Is "like" in this case an unmarked infinitive ("to like")? – syntonicC Sep 16 '15 at 15:47
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When "like" is used as a verb, it is always singular. Third person singular, to be precise.

This has been the case until only a few years ago, when, thanks to Facebook, we also started using the word like as a noun (meaning: "the event of a registration of the fact that a user finds another user's post amusing in a certain way"). In that case, the same rules apply as with any other noun: "Like" without the s for singular (as in "I got a new like in my post"), "likes" with the s for plural (as in "the photo I posted on FB yesterday got 100 likes").

The use of the word "like" as a noun is obviously a neologism.

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