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 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


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 ankita2219,

The phrase 'had been proceeding' is an example of the past perfect continuous form [had been + verb-ing]; 'had been smashed' and 'had been broken' are examples of the past perfect passive form.

The past perfect continuous passive form is a very rare form in English, but it would look like this:

It had been being debated for as long as a I could remember. [had been being + past participle]

As you can see, it is a rather unwieldy form and there are usually better (more elegant) alternatives.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the reply but how do I differentiate between active and passive? Is there any thumb rule?

Hello ankita2219,

All passive forms are formed with [be] (in an appropriate tense) + [past participle]. Active forms may use past participles, but they will have a different auxiliary verb such as 'have' or 'had'.  Continuous forms are formed with [be] (in an appropriate tense) + [verb-ing], so you can see they are different.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

thank you for your replay!

I would like to tell that Will continue to with you.

Hi Teachers,

Can we have a discussion on modal verbs ?
Please let me know the exact differece in the meaning of the below sentences

He will be going for the Party
He would be going for the party.

He will go there.
He would go there.

Please tell me how these sentences are different in terms of will & would.


Hi Nidhin,

Please see our will or would page for an explanation of these two modal verbs. If you have any questions, you're welcome to ask them, but please be sure to include the context, i.e. a sentence or two before the sentences containing will or would so that we can better answer your question.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

thank u

Hello, I don't see the topic of defective verbs on the page, could tell me what it is and how is it used?

Hello Portillanat,

I have answered this question for you on another page.  Please post questions once only; we will answer them as soon as we can but posting the same question multiple times only slows the process down.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,

Pls advise if the following letter makes sense:

This letter confirms that Ms Mary has worked as a Secretary for the company from ,...

Ms Mary decided to develop her career elsewhere after contract end. Wish wish her every success in her future endeavours.

Yours faithfully