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Verb phrases

Level: beginner

Verbs in English have four basic parts:

 Base form   -ing form    Past tense   Past participle 
work working worked worked
play playing played played
listen listening listened listened

Most verbs are regular: they have a past tense and past participle with –ed (worked, played, listened). But many of the most frequent verbs are irregular.

Level: beginner

Basic parts

Verbs in English have four basic parts:

 Base form   -ing form    Past tense   Past participle 
work working worked worked
play playing played played
listen listening listened listened

Most verbs are regular: they have a past tense and past participle with –ed (worked, played, listened). But many of the most frequent verbs are irregular.

Verb phrases

Verb phrases in English have the following forms:

  1. main verb:
  main verb  
We are here.
I like it.
Everybody saw the accident.
We laughed.  

The verb can be in the present tense (are, like) or the past tense (saw, laughed).

  1. the auxiliary verb be and a main verb in the –ing form:
  auxiliary be -ing form
Everybody is watching.
We were laughing.

A verb phrase with be and –ing expresses continuous aspect. A verb with am/is/are expresses present continuous and a verb with was/were expresses past continuous.

  1. the auxiliary verb have and a main verb in the past participle form:
  auxiliary have past participle  
They have enjoyed themselves.
Everybody has worked hard.
He had finished work.

A verb phrase with have and the past participle expresses perfect aspect. A verb with have/has expresses present perfect and a verb with had expresses past perfect.

  1. modal verb (can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would) and a main verb:
  modal verb main verb
They will come.
He might come.
The verb phrase 1

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The verb phrase 2

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Level: intermediate

  1. the auxiliary verbs have and been and a main verb in the –ing form:
  auxiliary have been -ing form  
Everybody has been working hard.
He had been singing.  

A verb phrase with have been and the -ing form expresses both perfect aspect and continuous aspect. A verb with have/has expresses present perfect continuous and a verb with had expresses past perfect continuous.

  1. a modal verb and the auxiliaries be, have and have been:
  modal auxiliary verb
They will be listening.
He might have arrived.
She must have been listening.
  1. the auxiliary verb be and a main verb in the past participle form:
  auxiliary be past participle  
English is spoken all over the world.
The windows have been cleaned.  
Lunch was being served.  
The work will be finished soon.
They might have been invited to the party.

A verb phrase with be and the past participle expresses passive voice.

The verb phrase 3

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The verb phrase 4

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Level: advanced

We can use the auxiliaries do and did with the infinitive for emphasis:

It was a wonderful party. I did enjoy it.
I do agree with you. I think you are absolutely right.

We can also use do for polite invitations:

Do come and see us some time.
There will be lots of people there. Do bring your friends.

Comments

Sir,
"I saw him washing his car".
This sentence means that I saw him washing his car but not from the begining to the end; not the complete action but just in the process.

"I saw him wash his car".
This means that I saw him wash his car from the begining to the end; the complete action.

But I think when I say this "I saw him wash his car from the begining to the end". This sentence has more emphasis on the fact that I saw the complete action than the previous sentence does. Am I right, what do you say ?

Can I also say "I saw him washing his car from the begining to the end" does it make sense or is it senseless and I should only use the first form of the verb in this sentence ?

Hello SonuKumar,

When you add 'from the beginning to the end' to the sentence you emphasise this face, as you say.

 

The continuous form is used when we are focused on the activity (the work done) rather than the action (the achievement/result). That can mean that an action is incomplete or that we do not see it all, but it can also mean simply that we are more interested in the process than the product. Thus, your example is quite possible.

Imagine a situation in which you are confirming that the person washing the car did not take any breaks. In this situation you are interested in the process and also in confirming that you saw the whole thing and know that the person did not stop. In this case your sentence would make perfect sense.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
I would like to ask the following
I love making cookies
Making is gerund?
Being part of the community
Being is gerund?
Thank you in advance

Hi Nagie23,

In your first example, making is a gerund.

The gerund is a verb form which functions as a noun and so in a sentence is can function as a subject or as an object. In your example, making cookies is the object of the verb love.

 

Your second example is less clear. Being could be a gerund or it could be a participle. The example is only a fragment of a sentence and it would depend on how the rest of the sentence is structured.

 

You can read more about -ing forms (gerunds and participles) on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/ing-forms

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

according to the dictionaries the verb "reconcile" is a transitive verb. Therefore, the following sentences should be unaccepbtable, although they sound quite alright to me. Can you help?

1. They (mother and daughter) reconcile after 20 years.
2. They reconcile with each other.
3. We reconciled before her death (or does it have to be: we reconciled our differences).

Thanks in advance!

Best,

Magnus

Hi Magnus,

Reconcile is a transitive verb, but it is generally used in the passive voice:

1. They (mother and daughter) were reconciled after 20 years.

2. They were reconciled with each other.

3. We were reconciled before her death.

 

As you suggest in your last example, you can use it in the active voice when an object is present:

We reconciled our differences before her death.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir
In the following sentence,
( Baking a cake is not as easy as eating it.)
is , 'Baking a cake' the subject or should 'a cake' be the subject?

Hi amrita_enakshi,

Baking a cake is the subject. Baking in the -ing form functions as a noun, so it can be the subject (or part of it). If you'd like to see more examples of this, have a look at our page on -ing forms. I hope it helps :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Sir.

Sir
In the following sentence
'This is the book I wanted ' is the real subject 'book' and the formal subject, 'this'..?
Thank you.

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