Verb phrases

Learn about the basic parts of verbs and verb phrases and do the exercises to practise using them.

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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Soumis par Hosseinpour le mer 06/04/2022 - 14:04

Permalien

Dear team hello,
I have not had so much fun (since/ when) I was a young boy.
Which one is correct (since or when)?
Thank you

Hi Hosseinpour,

I think since is the best option. It means the speaker is having a lot of fun right now, and more than at any other time from being a young boy until now.

When I was a young boy means the speaker is talking about the lack of fun in his youth as a general experience. But in this case, it would be more likely to use past simple (I did not have ...), since 'being a young boy' is a finished past time, without any relation to having fun now.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le sam 26/03/2022 - 20:52

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Dear team,
According to a research, the more participants drink alcohol, the higher the risk of death from cancer and other causes *becomes*, even after taking other factors into account.
I feel that this sentence is missing something after (becomes), am I right? I mean it does not make sense to me.

Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

The sentence is correct. You can add a verb, as you did, but it's fine as it is. Here are a few other examples of the construction:

The more you exercise, the healthier your heart.

The more time you spend together, the stronger your marriage.

The more the sun shines, the sweeter the fruit.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le ven 18/03/2022 - 01:42

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Dear team,
It (would not be wrong) to say this month of recessions has been shaping up to be the worst January on record for the well-tracked index since 1971.
Why do we use(would not be wrong) here? Does it refer to the future? Or something unreal or uncertain?
Thank you

Hi Hosseinpour,

It refers to something unreal or imagined - that is, it does not necessarily mean that anybody really did say or said that. "It would not be wrong to say ..." is a fairly common phrase to introduce the speaker's view on something.

We have a page for will and would, so it would be great if you have more questions to post them there: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/english-grammar-reference/will-and-would

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le mar 15/03/2022 - 14:42

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Dear team,
You will hear more about our interesting activities through this channel. We hope that our success in this program (would) lead more learners from our city to the international programs.
Can I use (would) in here?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

'would' is not correct here. When we use 'hope' as a verb to express wishes, we generally use a present tense verb form after it. What I'd say is 'We hope that our success in this program leads more learners from our city to the international programs.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le sam 12/03/2022 - 11:45

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Dear team hello,
(Given) the growing popularity and motivational pull of video games, concern over their addictive potential is inevitable.
I know that I can not use (despite) instead of (Given), but why? Is it because of meaning or grammar?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

'despite' here is grammatically correct, but if you use it, the sentence contradicts itself. In other words, it's a problem of meaning.

'given' identifies the reason for something, whereas 'despite' means something like 'although' -- it expresses a contrast.

Take these two sentences:

  1. Given the stress of having three jobs, Selma is very relaxed.
  2. Despite the stress of having three jobs, Selma is very relaxed.

2 is correct, whereas 1 doesn't make sense. This is because the stress of having three jobs is not normally associated with being relaxed -- 'despite' communicates this idea of a strange association between two things that don't normally go together.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le mer 02/03/2022 - 18:45

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Dear team,
Stresses on natural resources and accelerating climate extremes will increasingly impact economic development and growth in many countries.
Could you kindly explain the meaning of (Stresses on natural resources and accelerating climate extremes) in simpler English? Does it mean using a lot of oil and things like that will cause more bad weather?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

'Stresses on natural resources' means the pressure on natural resources (oil/gas/coal/water/wood etc) is causing problems. It's not clear if this pressure is caused by too much use or by something else (for example, climate change can cause less rainfall, which puts pressure on water resources). 'Accelerating climate extremes means' extreme weather (very high or low temperatures, very great or very little rainfall, hurricanes etc) is becoming more common.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le dim 27/02/2022 - 06:05

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Dear team,
The brain disorder the most common form of dementia begins with problems with an individual's memory. (However,) as it slowly progresses, patients are less and less able to function cognitively.
I know that *however* means but and used for contrast. The sentence before and the sentence in which *however* is used are not contrasting each other.
Please shed some light on the issue.
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

 

The contrast here is between how the illness starts and how it later progresses: initially its effects are limited but (contrast) later the effects are more serious.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le jeu 24/02/2022 - 16:11

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Dear team,
(Unless) we can recover a world in which business profits actually serve a purpose, the likelihood of more economic, political, and social shocks will remain intolerably high.
Can I use (although) instead of (unless).
Thank you

Hi Hosseinpour,

Yes, grammatically that is fine. But it changes the meaning. 'Although' means that it is definitely possible - for sure we can recover that world. 'Unless' expresses uncertainty about whether it can be recovered or not.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le mar 15/02/2022 - 17:28

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Respected team,
The state department --------earlier this year that smoking in public areas ---------- with decisiveness.
a. has announced/ will be banned
b. announced/ would be banned
When I saw this question, directly chose b, but then I read the question again (this year) attracted my attention, so I doubted which is the true answer. I asked some friends, the same answer.
Please help with this one.
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

You are right -- the best answer is b). The word 'earlier' in 'earlier this year' suggests we view that period of time as not connected to the present and so the past simple form is the correct form.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le lun 14/02/2022 - 02:40

Permalien

Hello respected team,
(Although) Aristotle swung the pendulum too far, imparting rigidity to Greek science, he revealed the potential of deduction and induction.
Can I use (before) instead of (although)?
Thank you

Hi Hosseinpour,

Grammatically, that is fine - but the meaning is quite different from 'although'.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le jeu 27/01/2022 - 18:21

Permalien

Dear team hello,
Physical disabilities can be of several types, *which* affect your sense of sight, your sense of hearing, or even your ability to perform the most basic functions.
Can I use (they) instead of (which)?
Thank you

Hi Hosseinpour,

If you use "they", then the sentence contains two independent clauses (1: "Physical disabilities can be of several types"; 2: "they affect ... basic functions") joined only by a comma, and this is a grammatical error.

This type of error is called a "comma splice". However, it is a relatively common error made by many language users.

The clauses need to be joined somehow (e.g. using "which", or adding a conjunction: "AND they affect ..."). Alternatively, you can use "they" if you change the comma to a semi-colon, or change it to a full stop and make two separate sentences.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team hello,
As far as environmentalists are concerned, we can reduce emissions up to a level of zero (while) conserving our landscapes and ecosystem.
I know that while is used to connect two sentences. Is *conserving our landscapes and ecosystem* an independent sentence? Can (while) be used in this situation?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

'conserving our landscapes' is not an independent clause because it lacks a subject and a finite verb. But in the sentence you ask about, I understand 'conserving our landscapes' to be an abbreviated form of 'we are conserving our landscapes', which is an independent clause.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team hello,
(Focusing) on the study of society, sociology is one of the social science that attempts to study human interaction of both the individual and populations.
Can I use (Having focused) instead of (focusing)?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

'Having focused' doesn't work here because this sentence is almost like a definition. If you said 'having focused', it makes it sound as if it were a field of study that no longer exists, and it also would be odd to use 'is' in 'sociology is one of ...'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team hello,
1. Social workers were thought (to be doing) valuable work.
2. Alice is known (to have killed) her husband.
3. Germans are not the only ones (to have suffered) damaged reputations on account of Nazism.
Could you kindly provide information on the tenses:(to be doing)-(to have killed)-(to have suffered). How do we form them? And what are their names? I want to read about them.
Thank you

Hi Hosseinpour,

These are called the continuous infinitive (to be + verb-ING) and the perfect infinitive (to have + past participle). They refer to actions that are in progress or have been completed respectively. You can read more about the perfect infinitive on this Cambridge Dictionary page: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/perfect-infinitive-with-to-to-have-worked

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team,
Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to comprehend language (as well as) to produce and use words to communicate.
Can I use (in order) instead of (as well as)?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

Yes, it's possible in terms of the grammar, though it does the change the meaning. Personally, I wouldn't change it, but it is possible.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team
 

Respected team,
The building has one of the most popular outdoor observations in the world, (being visited) by over 110 million people.
What tense or structure is (being visited)? Is it passive? Is it a reduced form?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

In this example 'being' is an -ing form, specifically a present participle. Participles are non-finite verb forms which do not have a tense of their own (in spite of the name 'present participle'), but which rather take their time reference from the context and the other verbs in the sentence.

 

You can read more about participles on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hosseinpour le lun 10/01/2022 - 04:44

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Hello respected team,
Until recently trade was restricted to the territories of the developed countries (rather than) other regions of the world, yet through time this situation seems to have reverted dramatically.
Can I use (but for) instead of (rather than), if not why?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

I'm afraid that you can't just replace 'rather than' with 'but for', but, if you remove 'yet through time' from the sentence, it works.

'but' introduces the idea of a contrast, and so does 'yet'. Using both of these ideas makes the sentence confusing. This is why you'd have to remove 'yet through time' if you wanted to use 'but for' in the place of 'rather than'.

It might help to simplify the sentence to 'Until recently, trade was restricted to A, but for B, yet through time, this situation has reverted'. Do you see how there are two contrasts there that make it confusing?

But you could say 'Until recently trade was restricted to A, but for B, this situation has reverted'. If you wanted to include the idea of 'through time' you could also say 'Until recently trade was restricted to A, but for B, through time, this situation has reverted'.

If that doesn't make sense, please let me know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team