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.


Hi teachers,
I will have a presentation about verbs and the verb phrases next week. After reading theory above, i confuse that is "want to go" a verb phrase? i see it doesn't belong to any categories above.
For example, in the sentence "i want to go to school" the verb phrase is "want" or "want to go?"

Hello thanhyen,

Verb phrases can be quite long and can include other verb phrases, noun phrases and so on in them. In this sentence, everything after 'I' forms one verb phrase, which can then be broken down further into noun phrases, smaller verb phrases and so on.

It's not really our aim to get into linguistics and parsing on this site, which is a site for language learners rather than linguistic analysis. If you want to analyse a sentence in this way then Berkeley University provides a useful onine tool which you can find here.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I'm Thai, I'm not so good at English. I would like to learn English especially speaking and writing. The most difficult part for me is "Tenses" I'm confused between the two sentences below which one is correct.

I've been living here for five years. or
I've lived here for five years.


Hi Chada
I've been living... is correct because you are still living there.
The other would be I lived because (I think) you're talking about the past.

Everything depends on what you want to say

Hi Chada,

Both sentences are correct; the difference between them is more a matter of emphasis or context. The first one emphasises the fact you're still living here more than the second one. You can read more about the difference between the present perfect simple and present perfect continuous forms on our page on this topic.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

hi,sir please tell me it is passive or active

"The intruder (had left) muddy footprints on the floor"
According to me it is passive because it have auxiliary verb+past participle but in answer has given it is active


This is indeed an active form. Passive forms are made with 'be' and the past participle. This is a past perfect form, using 'have' and the past participle. You can find more information on the past perfect here, and more on passives here.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sirs.
Could you clarify some statements.
I read that we can ommit IT,and that would be more academic style.
Which one of these is correct,or give your own correct sentence please.

Having compared data given by graph,is transparent that global consumption increased.
Having compared data given by graph ,it is transpaarent that global consumption increased.
Please correct any punctiation mistakes, if any were made.
Thanks beforehand.

Best wishes,


Hello Kamran,

The first sentence is not correct because the verb 'is' needs a dummy subject in such a construction. By the way, although I understand what you mean, 'transparent' isn't used this way in English - I might suggest saying it is 'clear' or 'evident' instead.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Kirk.
Best wishes.