You are here

Verb phrases

Level: beginner

Verbs in English have four basic parts:

 Base form   -ing form    Past tense   Past participle 
work working worked worked
play playing played played
listen listening listened listened

Most verbs are regular: they have a past tense and past participle with –ed (worked, played, listened). But many of the most frequent verbs are irregular.

Level: beginner

Basic parts

Verbs in English have four basic parts:

 Base form   -ing form    Past tense   Past participle 
work working worked worked
play playing played played
listen listening listened listened

Most verbs are regular: they have a past tense and past participle with –ed (worked, played, listened). But many of the most frequent verbs are irregular.

Verb phrases

Verb phrases in English have the following forms:

  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

MultipleChoice_MTYxNjA=

The verb phrase 2

GapFillTyping_MTYxNjE=

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

MultipleChoice_MTYxNjM=

The verb phrase 4

GapFillTyping_MTYxNjQ=

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.

Comments

Sir
In the following sentence,
( Baking a cake is not as easy as eating it.)
is , 'Baking a cake' the subject or should 'a cake' be the subject?

Hi amrita_enakshi,

Baking a cake is the subject. Baking in the -ing form functions as a noun, so it can be the subject (or part of it). If you'd like to see more examples of this, have a look at our page on -ing forms. I hope it helps :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Sir.

Sir
In the following sentence
'This is the book I wanted ' is the real subject 'book' and the formal subject, 'this'..?
Thank you.

Hello amrita_enakshi,

The full form of this sentence is 'This is the book that I wanted', which has a relative clause ('that I wanted'). 'This' is the subject, 'the book' is the predicate, and 'is' is a link verb (also known as a 'copula'). 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

The tip is an helpful one. Thanks.

Why is the verb "to be" known as a "state of being" verb? What exactly does "state of being" mean? Is it a case where if someone/something "is", then it means that that someone/something is in a state of "being" something, hence the reason why "to be" is known as a "state of being verb"?

Are "state of being" verbs part of a larger category of verbs called "state verbs"? If so, apart from "to be", are there any other state of being verbs? What about verbs such as "seem" or "appear", are these considered as state verbs but not "state of being" verbs?

Hello magnuslin,

I'm afraid this is not an area that we deal with here on LearnEnglish. I expect you could find something in the Wikipedia or English StackExchange on this if you'd like to know more.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

I would greatly appreciate your help with the following question:

It has been said that (a) verbs are words which describe (i.e. express or denote) actions, state or occurrence, and (b) that adjectives are words which describe (i.e. give more information and thereby adding or limiting the sense/meaning of) a noun or pronouns. My query is regarding the use of the word "describe", as in why is it that under (a) "describe" is taken to mean that verbs express/denote actions/states/occurrences (for example, the verb "run" represents the action of running), whereas under (b) "describe" is taken to mean the words (i.e. adjectives) gives more information about the nouns/pronouns, but are not themselves the nouns/pronouns (that is, not in the sense of expressing/denoting).

I guess to summarise, I would like to know firstly whether the above meanings of verbs and adjectives are correct, and secondly, concerning the use of the word describe (are there two meanings of describe - one being denote/express/represent, and the other being "giving more information". Many dictionaries unfortunately (in my opinion) aren't that clear on this.

Thanks once again for your help!

Regards,
Tim

Hi Tim,

The definitions seem fine to me, though you'll find far more complex definitions used in linguistic study, incorporating elements of morphology and inflection:

noun (n.) (n, N)

A term used in the grammatical classification of words, traditionally defined as the ‘name of a person, place or thing’, but the vagueness associated with the notions of ‘name’ and ‘thing’ (e.g. is beauty a thing?) has led linguistic descriptions to analyse this class in terms of the formal and functional criteria of syntax and morphology. In linguistic terms, then, nouns are items which display certain types of inflection (e.g. of case or number), have a specific distribution (e.g. they may follow prepositions but not, say, modals), and perform a specific syntactic function (e.g. as subject or object of a sentence). Nouns are generally subclassified into common and proper types, and analysed in terms of number, gender, case and countability.

 

As for the use of 'describe' in your definitions, it doesn't seem a problem that it's used in two different ways. That's quite common. The writer is aware of possible confusion and so defines what they are using the word for in each context, which is a reasonable approach.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages