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.


Hello Lal,

Thank you for pointing this out. The word should, of course, be 'of' and not 'off'. This was an unfortunate typo in the exercise and I have corrected it.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Thank you very much for your reply dated 20 July 2018- 7.38 Poland. I know it is a typing error
but I thought better to inform you.
Thank you again.

Hi again...and if you have the name of the shop?
I usually buy my clothes in Harrods or at Harrods?
Is IN always the best?
Changing the verb, if I use 'go shopping' would you say IN again?
I go shopping in Harrods/in the shopping centre.

Hi Ilariuccia,

The most common choice here is 'at' for all of these examples. It is not incorrect to use 'in', but it is more unusual as there is no other option. It's not possible to buy things from a shop without going inside so to specify 'in' seems slightly odd.



The LearnEnglish Team

Which preposition is correct with the verb'buy'?
1. I usually buy my clothes at the shopping centre.
2. I usually buy my clothes in the shopping centre.
3. I usually buy my clothes from the shopping centre.

Hi Ilariuccia,

'in the shopping centre' is the best choice -- the others might work in a very specific context, but 'in' works in most any I can think of.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Is this phrase correct?
If you are slow in writing, note down answers only.
(slow 'in' or 'at'?!)

Hi Marua,

'at' is more commonly used, but I'm not sure 'in' is wrong here. If these are instructions for native-speaker students, what I would say is 'If you are a slow writer, just write the answers'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Keep it in the refrigerator so that it may be preserved or safe.
Keep it in the refrigerator so that it may remain or stay safe or preserved.
Which sentence would you use generally to say this thing ?

Hello SonuKumar,

What I'd say is 'Keep it in the fridge so that it doesn't spoil'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team