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.


Hi teacher, I do not understand the answer in the last task

- I (had been proceeding) in an easterly direction ...

And the proper answer of "had been proceeding" is active.
Can you explain more for me, please?

Hello Enya,

'had been proceeding' is in the past perfect continuous tense. If it were a passive verb, it would be 'had been proceeded', though actually that doesn't make any sense in this context, because 'proceed' is an intransitive verb. (Intransitive verbs aren't used in the passive.)

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team,

from this article:
2) an auxiliary verb ("be") and a main verb in –ing form (...)
4) (...) A verb with "have" and "been" and the present participle expresses (...)

Do a main verb in -ing form and a present participle mean the same, or is there any difference?

Hello Jarek_O,

The '-ing form' of a verb and the present participle of a verb have the same form, i.e. look the same. For example, the -ing form and present participle of the verb 'go' are both 'going'.

The reason there is more than one term is that this form of a verb can be used in different ways. '-ing form' is the most general way to refer to this form. When it is used in adverbially, e.g. in a participle clause (e.g. 'Going home, she relaxed'), we call it a present participle. But when this form is used as the subject of a verb (e.g. 'Going home is not a good idea'), it's called a gerund.

I hope that clarifies it for you, but if not, please let me know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kirk, your explanation is very good.

hi kirk

The windows have been cleaned. (this active voice & passive voice lesson)

my question is "been" always with come present perfect continuous why did not use verb+ing form for verb. can i use verb+ing form here. i am little get confuse. kindly clarify me. lots of thanks

Hi taj25,

'Been' is the third form (the past participle) of 'be' and is used in a number of forms, not only in the present perfect continuous. The form in your example is present perfect passive.

You can read more about passive voice here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot for all the lessons provided here on this website.It is very informative.I am learning English again!(after what I learnt in school,which I hardly remember!) Please help me to understand auxiliary verbs and modal verbs. What I have understood from the lesson is that auxiliary verbs are (is,was,were,has,have,had) and modal verbs are(can,could,may,might,must,shall,should,will,would). Are there any more auxiliary and modal verbs which I have not included in the list? If not then I will memorize these words, however,if there are more then please suggest how do we define and identify auxiliary and modal verbs.
Also,I did not understand what is ("be").
And what is a present participle?

Thanks and regards,

Hello mahua_chakravarty,

There are three main auxiliary verbs in English ('be', 'do' and 'have'), though modal verbs are also a kind of auxiliary verb. This Cambridge Dictionary page has a detailed explanation of auxiliary verbs - be sure to scroll down to the Auxiliary verbs section - and Modal verbs are explained further down that same page.

'be' is the infinitive form of verb forms such as 'is', 'are', 'am', 'was' and 'were'. A present participle is the -ing form of a verb (e.g. 'going', 'doing', etc.) and can be used in many different ways (e.g. to form the present continuous).

I think that should answer your questions, but if not, please feel free to ask us any other short, specific questions you may have.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kirk.