Verb phrases

Level: beginner

Verbs in English have four basic parts:

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.

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

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.

Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 10/10/2019 - 06:45

In reply to by Quynh Nhu

Permalink

Hello Quynh Nhu

It's true that the verb form in A is more common in speaking than writing, but both A and B are grammatically correct -- which one is better depends on a context which we don't really know if this is an isolated statement.

A could be used to contradict what another person just said, for example, and B could correct if you're speaking about something you perceive as being connected with the moment of speaking, for example something that happened just this week.

C would be pretty unusual, as the present simple doesn't work in any context I can think of, though perhaps I'm just not thinking of one. D is definitely wrong because 'are' is plural and the subject is singular.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Thu, 03/10/2019 - 09:02

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask if the following are correct 1.To have a deep sense of place(to know very well the place and people) 2.He is tight with the local traditions Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 04/10/2019 - 06:03

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie,

The first sentence is grammatically fine, but the meaning of 'a deep sense of' is really more about consciousness than familiarity. If I say someone has a deep sense of time then I mean that they are conscious of, for example, the flow of history and its importance or relevance.

'Be tight with' is generally used to talk about being close friends with someone rather than following traditions, so I would say this is not a natural way to phrase this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 15:01

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct 1.Recently I found out OR 1.Recently I have found out that Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 02/10/2019 - 07:16

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie,

The difference here is one of verb form (present perfect or past simple) and it is not possible to say which is correct without knowing the context in which the sentence is used, as well as the speaker's intention.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Mon, 19/08/2019 - 14:07

Permalink
Hello, Thank you for your reply.I would like to add something and ask which of the following is correct. If someone is about to write a TOEFL/IELTS test etc, or he/she is going to write it in about 6 months which of the following form questions is correct 1. Are you taking the IELTS, TOEFL? test OR 2.Do you need to take the IELTS, TOEFL ?etc Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 19/08/2019 - 19:37

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie

Both are correct. 1 is asking about a plan and 2 is asking about a need.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by redream on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 07:47

Permalink
Hello "Common verbs like this are": ..... ..... ..... My logic says to me that "common verbs are like these.." But I couldn't understand this first structure and its meaning. May you have enough explanation about it?
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 08:45

In reply to by redream

Permalink

Hello redream

This is a common way of showing that a list will follow. 'verbs like this' means 'verbs that work like this one'. Another way of saying it is 'Some other common verbs like this one are: x, y, z.'

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 06:29

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct; Do you need to take the IELTS/GMAT/TOEFL exam? Do you need to take the IELTS/GMAT test? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 09:04

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie

Those are both correct as far as I know, though I'm not completely certain if the people at ETS or Princeton prefer 'exam' or 'test' to refer to the GMAT and the TOEFL -- you'd have to check with them.

Personally, I'd probably write 'IELTS, GMAT or TOEFL' instead of using slashes, but writing it the way you have is perfectly intelligible and I'm sure others would do the same.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dungnguyen on Sun, 04/08/2019 - 05:50

Permalink
Have a sentence in my lesson "You guys are no fun! See you later, I’m going to get a takeaway and play video games all night!" I would like to know structure of " You guys". please explain help me. I am looking for hearing from you! many thanks!

Hello dungnguyen

Since the pronoun 'you' can be used to refer to just one person or many people, sometimes people say 'you guys' to make it clear that they are using 'you' to refer to a group of people. Please note that 'you guys' is not used in formal situations, but is quite common in informal speaking.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Fri, 19/07/2019 - 18:33

Permalink
Sir, We ask somebody, How did get interested in this or what interested you in this or what got you interested in this. different ways to ask the same thing. I want to know if we can also ask the same thing with same meaning like this: What makes you interested in this ?
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 20/07/2019 - 22:04

In reply to by SonuKumar

Permalink

Hello SonuKumar

Probably the most common way to say this is 'How did you get interested in this?' or 'How did you get into this?' ('to get into something' means to become interested in something). You could say 'What makes you interested in cars?' but it's more natural to use one of the other suggestions I made above.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mano Nedunchezhian on Mon, 03/06/2019 - 16:39

Permalink
School reopens tomorrow. School will reopen tomorrow. Which one is the correct way?
Hello Mano Nedunchezhian, Both sentences are grammatically correct. Which one you choose will depend upon the context and the speaker's intention. We would use the present simple ('reopens') when the event is part of a calendar or schedule. We would use will ('will reopen') when we are describing a decision or making a guess or prediction about the future. You can read more about ways to talking about the future on this page: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/talking-about-future ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Sat, 01/06/2019 - 15:47

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct : can we say are you offering math lessons? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 02/06/2019 - 07:07

In reply to by anie1

Permalink
Hello agie, Yes, that is correct. In British English we would say 'maths' and in US English they say 'math'. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 26/05/2019 - 11:12

Permalink
Sir, To my friend, I forgot to give the keys to open the door and he asked me why I hadn't give him the keys. My reply to him was I forgot to do that or so. But I could have also said "that's what I forget" or "To give you or giving you the keys is what I forgot (to do)". Could I not ?
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 27/05/2019 - 07:37

In reply to by SonuKumar

Permalink
Hello SonuKumar You could possibly say 'That's what I forgot to do', but I think it would be much clearer to say 'Sorry, I forgot to give them to you' or 'Sorry, I forgot'. 'Giving you the keys is what I forgot to do' is grammatically correct, but it's not appropriate for an apology -- it's more of a description than an apology. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mik0303 on Wed, 20/03/2019 - 18:28

Permalink
Hi Peter & Kirk, I am back to your website again. Sorry, but my question is off topic but still under the umbrella of a much more bigger topic which is the verbs. I can't seem to find any lesson about subject-verb agreement. Has there been any discussion made about it? I really want to read it, and maybe ask few questions about it. Thank you!
Hello mik0303 Welcome back! Subject-verb agreement is briefly mentioned in a few places (e.g. https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/present-simple), but otherwise is not tackled explicitly on any page. What kind of questions did you have? All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Wed, 20/02/2019 - 19:22

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct If there is a problem/difficult situation that we have to get over can we also say that we can pass a difficult time? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 21/02/2019 - 08:33

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie,

You could talk about getting past this difficult time or getting through this difficult time but it would depend on the context, I think.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Thu, 14/02/2019 - 13:01

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct. If this specific moment I am reading something and I don't understand its meaning, can we say 1. I am trying to understand it? or 2. I try to understand it? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 15/02/2019 - 06:37

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie,

The first is correct. We rarely use the verb understand in a progressive form but we do use try, so I'm trying... is correct.

 

If you say I try... then you are talking about a general state, not your current activity.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Wed, 13/02/2019 - 07:39

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask if the following verb is correct When someone faces a problem and we want to show that we are sorry about it and we understand how he/she feels, can we say I feel for you ? or what is the appropriate verb in this case? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 14/02/2019 - 09:06

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie,

Yes, that's right. I feel for you is another way to say I feel sorry for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Thu, 07/02/2019 - 09:44

Permalink
Sir, There are many people who I dont want to see my photos. Or should I write like this; There are many people and I want them to see my photos or There are many people who I don't want my photos to be seen by ?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/02/2019 - 08:08

In reply to by SonuKumar

Permalink

Hello SonuKumar,

Both of these sentences are fine:

There are many people who I dont want to see my photos.

There are many people who I don't want my photos to be seen by?

The first is probably the most natural-sounding option.

 

Your second sentence seems to mean something quite different – the opposite, in fact.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

what song do you want played, to be played or get played. I think all of them are fine aren't they ?

Hello SonuKumar,

All of those are fine, yes, depending on the context and the intention, obviously.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Sun, 20/01/2019 - 22:04

Permalink
Hello, I would like to know if the following are correct or which one is better to use To practice/ practicing OR To practise/practising? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 21/01/2019 - 06:29

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hi agie

'to practice' and 'practicing' are the spelling in American English, whereas 'to practise' and 'practising' are British English. The noun form 'practice' (e.g. 'a lot of practice') is spelled the same in both American and British English.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Mon, 14/01/2019 - 07:53

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask about the following. If someone has a plan in order to get prepared for an exam. Can we ask Do you follow the plan? Have you been following the plan? 1. The verb follow is correct? 2. Which tense is correct in this case? B. Do someone take an exam? Is the verb take correct in this case? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 16/01/2019 - 06:12

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie,

If the question is about a person who is in the process of preparing for the exam then we can say:

Are you following the plan?

 

If the person's preparation is complete and they are about to take the exam then we can say:

Have you followed the plan?

 

The sentence in B is not correct. I'm not sure what you want to say, but either of the forms above would be correct grammatically.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anie1 on Sun, 13/01/2019 - 20:03

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask what is the difference in the following verbs I care for someone and I care about someone Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 15/01/2019 - 06:34

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hello agie,

Both care for someone and care about someone can mean that the person is important to the speaker emotionally.

Care for someone can also mean that the speakers looks after someone when they need help, such as when they are sick.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Muhammad Erad on Wed, 28/11/2018 - 07:55

Permalink
Hello sir, I am from South Asian country and Muslim too. As a Muslim we suppose to avoid things which are sinful to do. For example: watching unveiled women, listening to songs, smelling and eating pork, watching crime and don't report. I want one word which applies on every action. Like I want to say "Avoid everything which is sinful". Thank you

Hello Muhammad Erad,

Perhaps the noun 'sin'? So you could say 'Avoid all sins'. This word can also be used as a verb; in this case, you could say 'Do not sin'.

Does that help?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amol on Wed, 07/11/2018 - 10:57

Permalink
Hello, 'I bought frozen chicken yesterday.' In the above sentence, 'frozen', though essentially 'verb', used as an 'predicative adjective' for the noun 'chicken'. 'The chicken was frozen' Please let me know whether the word 'frozen' in the above sentence used as 'adjective(predicatively / with linking verb:was)' or 'regular verb(passive voice / auxiliary verb+V3)'
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 08/11/2018 - 07:35

In reply to by amol

Permalink

Hi amol,

In your second sentence, I'm afraid there is no way to determine from the mere words whether 'frozen' is a predicate or part of a passive verb. The only way to tell would to consider its full context.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by CATHERINE NTOM… on Wed, 24/10/2018 - 17:33

Permalink
HI SIR/MADAM I enjoy this english grammar at an age of 69,I was taught most of the subjests in my african language.I am learning a lot from the beggining and I am hoping to finish with an understanding CATHY

Submitted by anie1 on Sat, 13/10/2018 - 15:14

Permalink
Hello, I would like to ask if this is the right verb, in the following sentence When I am on holidays/vacation, I like reading Is it correct, I am on holidays/vacation? Thank you in advance
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 13/10/2018 - 18:10

In reply to by anie1

Permalink

Hi anie2,

'When I'm on holiday' and 'When I'm on vacation' are both correct and mean the same thing. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tanvir on Mon, 13/08/2018 - 13:25

Permalink
Hi, Is there any book available which will cover all the topic posted here in this website. Kindly advice.

Hi Tanvir,

There are many good grammar books on the market which cover much the same language areas as our site, or even more. However, the British Council does not recommend particular books or publishers – we need to be neutral in such matters.

My advice would be to look at a range of grammar books, choosing one or two grammar areas  (say, articles and relative clauses) and comparing their entries to see which you prefer. It's often not the case that the information is better or worse in any particular book, but more that the way it is presented is more or less helpful for a particular person, so it's a good idea to compare them in this way. Pay attention too to what other components are included. Many grammar books include CDs or online material, for example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thanks for your important guidance. Yes your are right that the way of presentation & relevant examples are more important to make a topic clearly understandable. Tanvir.