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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

Hi Ogewrites,

The passive voice and reported speech are two different features of language. Please take a look at the explanation of the passive voice on our active and passive voice page. If it's still unclear after that, please ask your question again on that page and we'll explain the difference a bit more. If you do that, please explain how you see the two as being the same - that will help us better answer your question.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Editor,
At third exercise for auxiliary verb, the correct answer of sixth question is "has", shouldn't "has"and "been" are all auxiliary verbs.
Thank you and thanks for your very good English learning site.

Hi mahaorui,

You are right: in that sentence, has been is the auxiliary verb. I have changed the answer in the exercises so that it is correct now.

Thanks very much for pointing out this mistake to us. Your and other users' collaboration really help us make LearnEnglish a better site!

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

hi.
i am ilham from indonesia..
i just want to ask you about the pattern of Verb Phrases..
should it be like consist of a head + modifiers? while the head is the main verb, and the modifiers could be like the compliment after the head, or auxiliary verb, or modal. is it right?

i am still confusing about that,..
thanks a lot before..

Hi Ilham Syarif,
In the headings of the charts above, you can see that auxiliary verbs generally come before main verbs, and modal verbs generally come before auxiliary verbs.
I'm not familiar with the terminology of a "head" and "modifiers" that you mention. But if you define the "head" as the main verb and "modifiers" as auxiliary or modal verbs, then the pattern "head + modifiers" is not correct.
If that doesn't make sense to you, please let us know.
Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

so, the pattern could be seems like:
- modal + auxiliary + main verb, or
- auxiliary + main verb

is it right? :)

and about the "head" and "modifiers", my lecture ever told that, the head means the main verb while the modifiers means the other particle (auxiliary or modal) that adhere to the head or main verb in creating a verb phrases.
so, in making a verb phrases..
it is only consist of a modal + an auxiliary + a main verb.. isn't it?
thanks a lot before.. :)

Hi Ilham,
Yes, that is correct for most affirmative (i.e., not negative) declarative (i.e., not questions) sentences . When a question is asked, or the verb is negative, however, the order can change.
I would encourage you to refer to the patterns that are in the charts above. They are not as comprehensive as the patterns you have read about, but I think they may represent the variety of English verb forms a bit better.
Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Learn English Team! I have asked several questions on different pages of this website. Hoping that you people won't mind my asking so many questions, I'm going to ask one more. It's about the verb "build". There's a teacher in our town who teaches B.A English and he says that you can never say
       "Shah jahan built Taj Mahal"  because he himself never built it, instead he got it built or had it built. I need to know if in modern standard English we could say that "We're building a new house" or "We built this house in 1990". I mean I've seen a lot of movies, and I've never heard anyone saying "we had our house built in 1990"
I'll be really grateful if you could explain. Thanks.

Hello skinnypigeon,
It is perfectly acceptable to say 'we had our house built'.  The structure is usually called 'the causative have and we use it when we pay for someone to do a service for us, such as building a house, washing the car, cutting our hair and so on..
It is also perfectly acceptable to use the past simple in the examples you provide; it is not necessary to have done it with your own hands.  I can't comment on your teacher and would not want to; however, remember that teachers sometimes simplify rules or explanations because they want to highlight one point or another, or because they want to practise one form rather than another.
I hope that answers your question.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You so much Peter! It's been really helpful indeed. I don't mean to hassle you but I'd like to ask if it is acceptable in standard British English to say "We built our house in 1990" Despite the fact that we did have it built by someone else? This is what I really need to know. Could you please explain if it sounds natural in both written or spoken English? Thanks again.

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