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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

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The verb phrase 2

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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

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The verb phrase 4

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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 Jonathan R,
Sir,
It's been two hours since I have been standing here.
It had been two hours since I had been standing there.
Are these sentences correct ?

Hi SonuKumar,

Actually the meaning is a bit unclear for me. Do you mean that you've been standing there for two hours (e.g., you arrived there at 2 p.m. and it's now 4 p.m. and you are still standing there now)? If so, it should be:

  • I've been standing here for two hours.
  • I've been standing here since 2 p.m.
  • I've been standing here and it's been two hours.

Or, do you mean that two hours have passed after you finished standing there (e.g., you were standing there until 4 p.m., and two hours have passed and it's now 6 p.m.)? If so, it should be:

  • It's been two hours since I stood / I was standing there.

In this last example, we need to use past simple instead of present perfect because the action does not continue until the present. (You finished standing there two hours ago.)

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello BC, my question is regarding phrasal verbs

I heard phrasal verbs must always contain verb + preposition

is it always true??

for example,

1) she is really pissed off now
2) she is really pissed now

above sentence don't use 'off' but correct......am i right ??

if i am right ...So does this mean we can omit 'prepositions' when using phrasal verbs
when context is clear??

and is this following sentence correct?

3) she is really pissed at her boss

Hi lima9795,

Yes, sentences 1 and 2 are both correct and they mean the same thing. But that's because the verbs to be pissed and to be pissed off both exist and mean the same thing. However, most phrasal verbs aren't like that, for example:

  • I looked after the children. ≠ I looked the children. (not grammatically correct)
  • Please take the rubbish out. ≠ Please take the rubbish. (grammatically correct, but different meaning)

So, the answer is no - we can't omit prepositions from phrasal verbs.

 

To be precise, off in sentence 1 is an adverb, not a preposition. Phrasal verbs contain a verb and an adverb (e.g. to let somebody down; to find something out), or a verb with both an adverb and preposition (e.g. to run out of something; to put up with something). A verb with a preposition only (e.g. to look after somebody; to deal with something) is usually called a prepositional verb. You can have a look at this page from the Cambridge Dictionary for more information about these.

Yes, sentence 3 is correct too :)

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
It's time to wrap it all up.
It's time to wrap it up all.
Are both of them correct or is the first one correct only ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Only the first sentence is correct. The verb is 'wrap up' and it is a separable multi-word verb, so the object pronoun 'it' (part of the object phrase 'it all') must come before the particicle.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
I would like to ask which of the following is correct. When we want to ask someone how are you, can we say
1.How is everything?
2.How is everything going on?
And is it polite to ask this question?
Thank you in advance

Hi Nagie23,

Number 1 is correct :) 

Number 2 is almost correct. It should be: How is everything going? Yes, both of these questions are polite.

There is another similar question: What's going on? In informal social situations, you can say this to mean 'how are you?' (i.e., a general question). But in more formal situations, it must refer to something more specific, e.g., you hear some shouting so you ask: What's going on? (referring to the noise you heard).

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
A picture hang from the wall.
A picture was hanging from the wall.
There was a picture hanging from the wall.
Is there a difference between the first sentence and the last two ?

Hello SonuKumar,

The first sentence isn't grammatically correct. If it's meant to be present simple, it should be 'hangs' and if it's meant to be past simple it should be 'hung'.

There could indeed be a slight difference in meaning, but I'm afraid it's difficult to explain without knowing the context and/or the speaker's intentions when saying this.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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