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 SonuKumar,

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

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi "The LearnEnglish Team",

I am absolutely intrigued about the correct use of a verb phrase.
Please, how British native speakers say: "to wear a beard" or "to have a beard"?
Or, perhaps both are correct but they mean different things?

Thanks a lot for your time!

Hi José,

Both forms are possible but they have different meanings. If a person has a natural beard then we say 'have'. If a person has an artificial beard - an actor, for example - then we say 'wear'.

It is a little different for hair. We generally say 'have' but we can use 'wear' to describe styles:

She has blonde hair.

She's wearing her hair in braids today.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thanks so much for your explanations!

Hello Team

I had been proceeding in an easterly direction - In this example "had been proceeding" as per me is a passive voice. I just did the task given above. the answer suggestion says that it is active voice. Please explain. also tell me what is the passive voice of the same if it is active voice.

Hello Pavan Kaur,

'proceed' is an intransitive verb; intransitive verbs do not have passive forms. You might want to look at the definition and example sentences in the dictionary.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

This is just to point out a spelling mistake found under'"be" past participle' namely ,'They-might have been-invited-to the part' Here the 'y' of 'party' is missing.

Hello Ramachandran Vatakara,

Thank you very much for flagging this for us. We check our materials very carefully but mistakes sometimes get through and it's great that we have such observant users on the site.

I have updated the page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Teacher,

In the below sentence, is Let the main verb?

"Let's go to the beach".


Hello harini,

Yes, I would say that 'let' is the main verb here and 'go' is an infinitive form.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team