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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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

Hi Peter, Thanks. So in your view, describe can indeed mean two things, that is, one meaning being to denote/express/represent (such as saying that a verb is word which describes an action, i.e. "run" = the action of running), and the other being "giving more information" (such as an adjective providing more information/details about a noun, or an adverb limiting the meaning of a verb)?

Hi TIm,

Describe is a normal word rather than a piece of technical jargon, so it can have a wide range of meanings. The important thing is to be clear. The writer you quoted explains what they mean by the word in each case to ensure clarity.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear team, Teach them briefly the irregular forms ask for feedback (from) the learners. Can I use (from) in this sentence? Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

It's fine to say 'ask for feedback from the learners'. You could also say 'get feedback from the learners'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Good morning ,Could I ask " somebody,someone,everyone, anyone" always belonging to ( has or had)? Thank you in advance.

Hello Backlight,

I'm not sure I understand your question. If you are asking whether a singular or plural verb is needed with these words then the answer is singular: indefinite pronouns like these are grammatically singular, so we say

everybody has

not

*everybody have*

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct 1.He/she does not pay attention during the lesson 2.He can't focus on the lesson ( during the lesson) 3.He doesn't concentrate during the lesson Thank you in advance

Hello angi,

All three sentences are grammatically correct. Which would be best in a given context would depend upon that context, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct 1.The house has got a lot of windows that let the light in. Is it correct? Especially that let the light in? Thank you in advance
Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct. My house has got a lot of windows that let the light in. Is the sentence correct, especially the second part:.. That let the light in? Thank you in advance
Hello I would like to ask if the following is correct If we meet someone and we feel that have met him/her before(at work, in an event etc) Can we ask Do I know you from somewhere? And if it is correct, is it polite? Thank you in advance

Hello agie

Yes, that is correct and would be acceptable in all but quite formal situations. You could also just say 'Do I know you?' or 'Have we met before?'

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask the following : Though I know that used to/and would are used to describe past habits and /or actions, I don't really understand the difference. Could you please give me an example? Thank you in advance

Hello agie,

Both used to and would are used to describe things that a person did habitually in the past and, usually, does not do any more. However, while we can use used to for both actions and states, would is used only for actions.

As a child, I used to go swimming every day - correct

As a child, I would go swimming every day - correct

I used to live in London - correct

I would live in London - incorrect

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct When the living room has also a dining room we use the following verb? The dining room is included in the living room. Thank you in advance

Hello agie,

If you mean that there is one room with different sections then we would say that the living room is divided and has a section for dining, or say that there is a joint living and dining room in the house.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to know which of the following is correct. If I want to take a course in another city then which is correct 1. Could you please give me more information as far as the lessons and the accommodation is concerned OR 2. Could you please give me more info as far as the lessons and the accommodation are concerned? Thank you in advance
Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct There is a house for sale.when it has a nice view we say 1.It has a nice view or 2.There are lovely views? Thank you in advance
Hello, I would like to ask which of the following are correct 1.Which verb do we use after an online interview? It was lovely to meeting you or it was lovely talking to you. 2.Is it to.. meeting/talking to you or Meeting/talking you? Thank you in advance
Hello, I would like to ask the following Future arrangements present simple and present continuous 1.The train leaves at 8 o clock. This is clear, it is present simple but sometimes to me is not clear for example I am meeting Paul at eight But what about future arrangements? What is the difference between the two tenses? Thank you in advance
Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct 1.Thank you for letting me know or 2. Thank you for letting me to know? Thank you in advance
Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct. 1.I met him/her 2 years ago. We have become best friends since then OR 2. We became friends two years ago Thank you in advance

Hello agie,

Both are possible. If you use became then you are telling us about an event which happened two years in the past.

If you use have become then you are telling us about a process which developed from a point in the past up to the present, resulting in a present situation.

The choice really depends on what the speaker chooses to emphasise.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask which of the following is correct When someone is a student at a university, in the first or second year(4 year duration) then we say 1.He studies at the university Or 2.He is studying at the university? Thank you in advance
Hello, I have a doubt about how to work with: "use to" or use for" referring to what an object usage or utility. Is it right to say: What is this used for? It is used to power cellphones. Thanks in advance.

Hello ngrl

Both of your sentences are correct and natural. You could say 'used to power' or 'used for powering' and they have the same meaning.

In questions where we don't know what something is used for, i.e. when there is no object after 'used to' or 'used for', however, we normally only say 'used for' -- I think is because saying 'used to' without an object after it can be confusing, since it also has other meanings.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir, I had a test at school yesterday and It had one question like this: "Receiving the federal grant money last month……..…….us to invest in upgrading a few areas of our building. A.did allow B.has allowed C.allows D.are allowing And I chose A because of the word "last month" and I learned from you guys that auxiliari verb can use to emphasis. But the teacher said that I was wrong T.T because "auxiliari verb+Vbare" just used in spoken English, not in writing. And C must be the correct answer. So my question is: Can "auxiliari verb+Vbare" be used in writing too? Thankyou so much. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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 ?