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.

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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

Sir, She was standing there. She stood there. She was wearing a black dress at the party. She wore a black dress at the party. Is there a difference among these ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Similar to the other sentences you asked about, it's difficult to explain without knowing the context and/or speaker's intentions when saying these sentences. In general, though, past continuous forms often describe a 'background' action, i.e. something less directly relevant to whatever events are unfolding. Or sometimes we use them to give the listener the sense that they are present there in that moment in the past.

We also typically use the verbs 'stand' and 'wear' in continuous forms to describe a situation. When they are used in the past simple, they can also be used to describe a situation but can also reflect a choice on the part of the person to stand or wear something in particular. Again, it's really difficult to explain without a context.

I'd also recommend this BBC page on the narrative tenses.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello I would like to ask the following When we meet a friend after a long period of time can we say? It was lovely to see you again Thank you in advance

Hello Nagie23,

In most cases I would recommend 'It's lovely to see you again' instead of 'It was lovely ...', especially if you say this right when you first see them or sometime during your first meeting with them.

If you meet them and then speak with some time later, then 'It was lovely ...' would be the better form.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello LearnEnglish Team, Unless I’m mistaken, the verb phrase “thank you” is an independent clause with the implied subject “I”. I’m aware that “thank you” can also be an adjective (“a thank you note”) and less commonly a noun (“send flowers as a thank you”). But these are not what I’m talking about. I mean specifically the verb phrase “thank you” as one might use in an email as a normal pleasantry to express one's appreciation. If, as I say, “thank you” as a verb phrase can be an independent clause with an implied subject, then wouldn’t the following be examples of a comma splice? “Thank you, it makes my day to hear that.” “Thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time to write.” “I am happy to hear you feel that way, thank you.” I appreciate your input and look forward to your reply. Tim O’Brien

Hello Tim,

Your analysis looks correct to me, which means that the examples you include do indeed feature a comma splice. Although strictly speaking this is incorrect, this usage has become extremely common, as I expect you've noticed.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi perfect team, I want to clear 2 confusions in my mind. I saw that sentence, but I don't understand the part 'big ships stuck in the Red sea' Big ships stuck in the Red Sea could be targets after a series of attacks -Is it a reduced relative passive clause? Like 'Big ship which was stuck in the Red sea' If it is passive, who/what can stuck the big ship? I am also confused about that thing. I would be grateful if you could explain me. Best wishes!
Is it in passive meaning, teacher? or in following meaning https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/stuck And how we can decide whether stuck is passive or adjective? Thank you in advance.

Hello Nevi,

Sentences like this are often ambiguous. You could read it as an adjective or as a verb form which is part of a passive construction. It's really only a question of terminology; in terms of meaning it does not change the sentence at all.

If you see it as a passive, then many things could be the cause: the tide, the current, the captain's mistakes, misfortune etc. The context may make this clear or may leave it unsaid.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team, I am confused about one thing. Can I use the verb 'be' after a verb whose a pattern is like 'a verb+to do something'. For example, 'be expected to do something' Can I say 'The weather is expected to be cold'? Does - to do something- include the verb -to be-? Thanks.Best wishes

Hi Nevı,

Yes. When showing verb patterns, to do represents a generic verb and it can be replaced by any verb, as long as the sentence as a whole makes sense. Similarly, doing represents a generic verb in the -ing form.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there! I have some questions about the verb phrase. 1.In this example: 'Christina and I aren't doing our activities as we should' the verb phrase is 'are doing', isn't it? 2. Look at the following examples: -This flat hasn't been properly cleaned for months. - Honey has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. I Identified the verb phrases in both examples (has been cleaned; has been used) - Why are "cleaned" and "used" the main verbs?, how do you call them because I thought they were adjectives as "broken glass"? I don't know if I'm mistaken. Please correct me! 3. When can we find a single verb functioning as a verb phrase? Her dogs barks. Like this? Thank you in advance. :-)

Hello isaipacas,

1. Yes, it's 'aren't doing'.

2. Yes, those are the verb phrases. In this case, the last word of each is the past participle in a passive verb form.

3. Yes, that is correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask the following As far as lesson is concerned. 1)If I am a teacher then, I do plates /yoga? I teach pilates? I can't talk to you right now, I have a lesson /I have pilates lesson 2. Student I have pilates /I do pilates? I take yoga lessons? Thank you in advance
Hello, I would like to ask the following : 1.Is it correct to say:Now, I am enjoying the snow or I enjoy the snow? 2. Do you like watching movies? 3.Will she go to the supermarket? Thank you in advance

Hello Nagie123,

Which form is best depends on what the purpose and context of a sentence or question is. For example, in 1, the second form is best in most situations, but there are some where 'am enjoying' could be correct.

In many situations, 2 would be fine, and 3 could also be correct in some contexts.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team, I want to ask question about using dictionary, which is more general.When I search a word(especially adj or noun) to understand their patterns, I am sometimes confused. 1)Do this patterns,which are adj.and noun, show me the only way or the most commons? Can you say how should I use the patterns?

Hi Aysn,

It's great that you're using dictionaries for learning :)

There are various dictionaries and they have differences in, for example, how they select words and patterns to include, which order they list them in, and what information about the word they include. 

Dictionaries for learners usually present only the main meanings and uses of words. If you want to see fuller information, try an 'English only' dictionary that is not specifically for learners. For example, compare the word work in the Cambridge Learners' Dictionary and the full Cambridge Dictionary. The information is quite different!

About how to use the various word patterns, I definitely recommend using a dictionary that shows multiple examples of how the word is used. The examples will show you the contexts and structures that you can use this word in. But, it's impossible to give a complete list (and people use words in new ways all the time, which dictionaries cannot catch up with), so also try to notice the word when you're reading or listening in English, and pay attention to the patterns you see/hear. Over time, you will build up this knowledge.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Teacher, One more thing. For instance the word 'damage'. While I was reading, I saw the word and looked the dictionary to learn it's pattern. I found "damage to" pattern, but I couldn't find the 'damage from' pattern which I saw while reading. Why the dictionary doesn't show me this pattern? or A dictionary should show me all patterns? I am so confused about that.Could you explain teacher, please?

Hello Aysn,

I'm not sure any dictionary will show all possible uses of a word. Instead, they focus on the most common ones.

I checked one other dictionary, the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, which I find particularly useful for collocations; in the numerous examples on the page, there is one instance of 'damage from'.

It might be a good idea to check one or two dictionaries. I know that's a lot of work, but every time you learn something new, make a note of it somewhere so that you can revise what you've learned later on. Slowly but surely, you will really improve!

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, If I ask someone to keep sitting or standing, do I mean for them to sit or stand again and again or do I mean for them to stay seated or standing ? Good wishes and Happy New Year!

Hello SonuKumar,

Happy New Year to you too!

That means to stay seated or standing.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi I would like to ask you if the following sentence is correct I teach math. All lessons are designed to help you progress quickly. In this case progress is a noun? Is the sentence correct? Thank you in advance

Hello Nagie23,

In this case, 'progress' is a bare infinitive and yes, it is grammatically correct. 'help' can be followed by an object (in this case, 'you') and then an infinitive ('progress' -- 'to progress' is also correct).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, "I saw him washing his car". This sentence means that I saw him washing his car but not from the begining to the end; not the complete action but just in the process. "I saw him wash his car". This means that I saw him wash his car from the begining to the end; the complete action. But I think when I say this "I saw him wash his car from the begining to the end". This sentence has more emphasis on the fact that I saw the complete action than the previous sentence does. Am I right, what do you say ? Can I also say "I saw him washing his car from the begining to the end" does it make sense or is it senseless and I should only use the first form of the verb in this sentence ?

Hello SonuKumar,

When you add 'from the beginning to the end' to the sentence you emphasise this face, as you say.

 

The continuous form is used when we are focused on the activity (the work done) rather than the action (the achievement/result). That can mean that an action is incomplete or that we do not see it all, but it can also mean simply that we are more interested in the process than the product. Thus, your example is quite possible.

Imagine a situation in which you are confirming that the person washing the car did not take any breaks. In this situation you are interested in the process and also in confirming that you saw the whole thing and know that the person did not stop. In this case your sentence would make perfect sense.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I would like to ask the following I love making cookies Making is gerund? Being part of the community Being is gerund? Thank you in advance

Hi Nagie23,

In your first example, making is a gerund.

The gerund is a verb form which functions as a noun and so in a sentence is can function as a subject or as an object. In your example, making cookies is the object of the verb love.

 

Your second example is less clear. Being could be a gerund or it could be a participle. The example is only a fragment of a sentence and it would depend on how the rest of the sentence is structured.

 

You can read more about -ing forms (gerunds and participles) on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/ing-forms

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, according to the dictionaries the verb "reconcile" is a transitive verb. Therefore, the following sentences should be unaccepbtable, although they sound quite alright to me. Can you help? 1. They (mother and daughter) reconcile after 20 years. 2. They reconcile with each other. 3. We reconciled before her death (or does it have to be: we reconciled our differences). Thanks in advance! Best, Magnus

Hi Magnus,

Reconcile is a transitive verb, but it is generally used in the passive voice:

1. They (mother and daughter) were reconciled after 20 years.

2. They were reconciled with each other.

3. We were reconciled before her death.

 

As you suggest in your last example, you can use it in the active voice when an object is present:

We reconciled our differences before her death.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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?

Subido por Jonathan R el Sáb, 03/10/2020 - 03:28

En respuesta a por amrita_enakshi

Enlace permanente

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

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