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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Soumis par Kirk le sam 20/07/2019 - 22:04

En réponse à par SonuKumar

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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

Soumis par Mano Nedunchezhian le lun 03/06/2019 - 16:39

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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

Soumis par anie1 le sam 01/06/2019 - 15:47

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Hello, I would like to ask if the following is correct : can we say are you offering math lessons? Thank you in advance

Soumis par Peter M. le dim 02/06/2019 - 07:07

En réponse à par anie1

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

Soumis par SonuKumar le dim 26/05/2019 - 11:12

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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 ?

Soumis par Kirk le lun 27/05/2019 - 07:37

En réponse à par SonuKumar

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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

Soumis par mik0303 le mer 20/03/2019 - 18:28

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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

Soumis par anie1 le mer 20/02/2019 - 19:22

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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

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 21/02/2019 - 08:33

En réponse à par anie1

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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

Soumis par anie1 le jeu 14/02/2019 - 13:01

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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

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 15/02/2019 - 06:37

En réponse à par anie1

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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

Soumis par anie1 le mer 13/02/2019 - 07:39

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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

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 14/02/2019 - 09:06

En réponse à par anie1

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Hello agie,

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

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par SonuKumar le jeu 07/02/2019 - 09:44

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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 ?

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 08/02/2019 - 08:08

En réponse à par SonuKumar

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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 ?

Soumis par anie1 le dim 20/01/2019 - 22:04

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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

Soumis par Kirk le lun 21/01/2019 - 06:29

En réponse à par anie1

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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

Soumis par anie1 le lun 14/01/2019 - 07:53

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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

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 16/01/2019 - 06:12

En réponse à par anie1

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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

Soumis par anie1 le dim 13/01/2019 - 20:03

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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

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 15/01/2019 - 06:34

En réponse à par anie1

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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

Soumis par Muhammad Erad le mer 28/11/2018 - 07:55

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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

Soumis par amol le mer 07/11/2018 - 10:57

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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)'

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 08/11/2018 - 07:35

En réponse à par amol

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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

Soumis par CATHERINE NTOM… le mer 24/10/2018 - 17:33

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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

Soumis par anie1 le sam 13/10/2018 - 15:14

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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

Soumis par Kirk le sam 13/10/2018 - 18:10

En réponse à par anie1

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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

Soumis par Tanvir le lun 13/08/2018 - 13:25

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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.

Soumis par Lal le sam 11/08/2018 - 11:55

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Hello Sir Please let me know whether these sentences are correct. Either your sister or brothers have come. Either your sister or brothers has come. Thank you Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

The verb should agree with the last noun in the list. The last noun here is 'brothers' so a plural verb ('have') is needed.


Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lal le ven 03/08/2018 - 08:22

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Hello Sir Thank you very much for your reply on 3.Augest regarding 'books' Now I have another question. e.g. I am introducing one of my friends to another friend of mine. the first one studied with me. So which is correct? He is my classmate or he was my classmate. Are both correct? Or only one then which one. Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hi Lal,

This depends on whether you still go to class together. If you still go to class together, 'is' would be better. If not, 'was'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lal le jeu 02/08/2018 - 08:14

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Hello Sir I am sorry I could not ask you clearly the question regarding the 'school library.I am asking the same in a different way. 'The school has a library and it has many books which have been written by famous authors.' My question is regarding the last sentence enclosed in inverted commas. Some of the authors are dead but not all. I have used the present tense. (present perfect) Is it all right to use the present tense? Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

You could use the present perfect (have been written) or the past simple (were written) in that sentence. Both are correct. There is a present result of the writing (the books), but the action (the writing) was performed in a finished time period. It is up to the speaker how they see the action and therefore which form they choose.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lal le mer 01/08/2018 - 07:25

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Hello Sir Please help me to clarify this. The school has a library and it has many books written by famous authers. I am using present perfect but some of the authers are no more but not all. In this situation what is the tense I should use. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

Could you please give us the specific sentence you're asking about? If you mean the sentence that you mention, it doesn't use the present perfect, it has the verb 'have' and the noun phrase 'many books written by famous authors'; this noun phrase is the object of the verb 'have'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lal le jeu 26/07/2018 - 11:08

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Hello Sir I have a question under definite article. e.g. I am meeting David on 12th or I am meeting David on the 12th. Which is correct first or the second? Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

We use the definite article before ordinal numbers, including those used in dates. Thus we say 'the 12th'. 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lal le ven 20/07/2018 - 04:21

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Hello Sir RE: afraid off/of This comes under verbs, I am extremely sorry giving you the wrong topic by mistake. Fogive me for that. Main topic is English Grammar then 'verbs' under this: 'Questions and negatives -questions with verbs and preposition (Questions with verbs and prepositions 1 ) Sub topic: Test yourself (Put the words in the correct order to make questions) e.g. afraid you What off ? are Ans. What are you afraid off? (wrong) but when press finish the answer indicates with ticks meaning correct but when you go to test yourself 2. the correct answer is 'of' Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

Thank you for pointing this out. The word should, of course, be 'of' and not 'off'. This was an unfortunate typo in the exercise and I have corrected it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir Thank you very much for your reply dated 20 July 2018- 7.38 Poland. I know it is a typing error but I thought better to inform you. Thank you again. Regards Lal

Soumis par Ilariuccia le ven 06/04/2018 - 05:51

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Hi again...and if you have the name of the shop? I usually buy my clothes in Harrods or at Harrods? Is IN always the best? Changing the verb, if I use 'go shopping' would you say IN again? I go shopping in Harrods/in the shopping centre. Thanks.