Verb phrases in English have the following forms:

Level: beginner

  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


The verb phrase 2


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 havebeen 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


The verb phrase 4


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.


I would like to ask if this is the right verb, in the following sentence
When I am on holidays/vacation, I like reading
Is it correct, I am on holidays/vacation?
Thank you in advance

Hi anie2,

'When I'm on holiday' and 'When I'm on vacation' are both correct and mean the same thing. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Is there any book available which will cover all the topic posted here in this website. Kindly advice.

Hi Tanvir,

There are many good grammar books on the market which cover much the same language areas as our site, or even more. However, the British Council does not recommend particular books or publishers – we need to be neutral in such matters.

My advice would be to look at a range of grammar books, choosing one or two grammar areas  (say, articles and relative clauses) and comparing their entries to see which you prefer. It's often not the case that the information is better or worse in any particular book, but more that the way it is presented is more or less helpful for a particular person, so it's a good idea to compare them in this way. Pay attention too to what other components are included. Many grammar books include CDs or online material, for example.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your important guidance. Yes your are right that the way of presentation & relevant examples are more important to make a topic clearly understandable.


Hello Sir
Please let me know whether these sentences are correct.
Either your sister or brothers have come.
Either your sister or brothers has come.
Thank you

Hello Lal,

The verb should agree with the last noun in the list. The last noun here is 'brothers' so a plural verb ('have') is needed.


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Thank you very much for your reply on 3.Augest regarding 'books'
Now I have another question. e.g. I am introducing one of my friends to another
friend of mine. the first one studied with me. So which is correct? He is my classmate or he was my classmate. Are both correct? Or only one then which one.
Please let me know.
Thank you.

Hi Lal,

This depends on whether you still go to class together. If you still go to class together, 'is' would be better. If not, 'was'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
I am sorry I could not ask you clearly the question regarding the 'school library.I am asking the same in a different way. 'The school has a library and it
has many books which have been written by famous authors.' My question is regarding the last sentence enclosed in inverted commas. Some of the authors are dead but not all. I have used the present tense. (present perfect) Is it all right to use the present tense?
Thank you.