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.



I would like to ask some questions:

''The great place to be(being) in''
What is the difference between the sentences when infinitive or gerund form decribes the noun?

''What she looks like?''
''What does she look like?''
Which question form is correct?

''What time should I go to the break at?''
''When should I go to the break at?''
Those have the same meaning, but should I use preposition ''at'' in the second sentence?

I want to say that I was doing something on or in area, but I do not know which preposition I should choose. Could you help me on that? Do you have any advice how to search on dictionaries for particular prepositions?

Thank you for given time.

Hello MCWSL,

In 1, only the infinitive form is correct. In 2, only the second form is correct. In 3, no, 'at' should not be used with the question beginning with 'when'. For 4, I'm afraid I'm not sure what to recommend, as I don't understand what the sentence means. Perhaps if you supply the context I can help you.

Finding the correct preposition can indeed be quite difficult. The first thing I'd recommend is to look in two or three good dictionaries, as other ones don't typically include example sentences. Cambridge, Oxford and Macmillan, for example, are dictionaries that I'd recommend. You can also do internet searches with the different prepositions to see examples of how they are used. This is more difficult, but can also be useful, particularly when you don't find what you're looking for in dictionaries. You can also ask us, of course, but please be sure to provide the context, as this is often essential in determining what is correct.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

I would like to ask: why in the first sentence ''being'' cannot be used?

Thanks again.

Hello MCWSL,

Sentences of this form never use a gerund:

This is a great place to work (not working).

It is a horrible letter to receive (not receiving).

She is a good boss to have (not having).

Some aspects of grammar are simply arbitrary and that is the case here. The gerund is not used in such sentences. For more information on the use of the to-infinitive see this page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I would like to ask some questions about following:

''I'll be working until 26th of November''
(Shouldn't future simple be used here because the tense in example means the doer works after mentioned day?)

''Do you think she'll have seen the doctor by four o'clock''

I looked up the meaning of this sentence in the Cambridge dictionary and I wasn't able to understand
this: ''We use the future perfect form when we look back to the past from a point in the future''.
where is that ''looking-back'' to the past? Could you explain this to me please.

''I am under a lot of pressure lately''

Is ''under pressure'' an expression like on time/purpose?

''what time is it''

''what is the time''

Do those sentences have the same meaning, and are they both ordinary question forms?

Many thanks.

Hello MCWSL,

For your first two questions, I'd suggest you look at our Future Continuous & Future Perfect page for our explanation, but I'll also answer your questions: the future continuous does not mean the person works after that day - it's more a question of how we view the time period until that day. A little while ago, I wrote to another user about the use of the continuous aspect; please take a look at my comment and then if you have any questions after that, let us know.

In the example about the doctor, at four o'clock (which is the future), she will already have gone to the doctor or not - at four o'clock, her going to the doctor will be the past. The future perfect is used for situations like this, where we're talking about the future, but of something that will be in the past at that time in the future. It's a bit difficult to explain, but I hope that helps.

Yes, 'to be under pressure' means that people or a situation is putting pressure on you. Both of the questions asking the time are correct. I'd say the first is a bit more common, but both are used and mean the same thing.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I am not clear with this sentences. Someone has cleaned the windows <> The windows have been cleaned. The place of has and have, it's confusing. We can say the windows has been cleaned.

Hello Deepanraj06,

The first sentence is in the active voice and the second one is in the passive voice. There's an explanation of this on our active and passive page. Note that in the first sentence, the subject 'someone' is singular, which is why the verb is singular ('has'). In the second sentence, the subject 'windows' is plural, which is why the verb is plural.

It would be incorrect to say 'The windows has been cleaned' (though you could say 'The window has been cleaned').

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you. Actually, I got that example in a grammar book, which also confused me. They mentioned this "quasi-passive voice" term in that book, and I searched to find some authentic information about it but I couldn't, which brought me to ask you about it. Actually, my question was: Is there any "quasi-passive voice or quasi-passive verb" term in English grammar?

Hello hasibrj,

I'm not familiar with the term 'quasi-passive'. Nor did I find it in the Wikipedia or any of my reference books, though there is some mention of it on the internet. I have no idea, but I wonder if it could refer to ergative verbs, which are verbs that can be used both transitively and intransitively.


All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team