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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Hi Ilariuccia,

The most common choice here is 'at' for all of these examples. It is not incorrect to use 'in', but it is more unusual as there is no other option. It's not possible to buy things from a shop without going inside so to specify 'in' seems slightly odd.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ilariuccia le jeu 05/04/2018 - 16:46

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Hi! Which preposition is correct with the verb'buy'? 1. I usually buy my clothes at the shopping centre. 2. I usually buy my clothes in the shopping centre. 3. I usually buy my clothes from the shopping centre. Thanks...

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 05/04/2018 - 19:45

En réponse à par Ilariuccia

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Hi Ilariuccia,

'in the shopping centre' is the best choice -- the others might work in a very specific context, but 'in' works in most any I can think of.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Marua le mer 28/03/2018 - 22:20

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Hello. Is this phrase correct? If you are slow in writing, note down answers only. (slow 'in' or 'at'?!) Thanks.

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 29/03/2018 - 06:09

En réponse à par Marua

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Hi Marua,

'at' is more commonly used, but I'm not sure 'in' is wrong here. If these are instructions for native-speaker students, what I would say is 'If you are a slow writer, just write the answers'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par SonuKumar le ven 02/03/2018 - 08:33

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Sir, Keep it in the refrigerator so that it may be preserved or safe. Keep it in the refrigerator so that it may remain or stay safe or preserved. Which sentence would you use generally to say this thing ?

Hello SonuKumar,

What I'd say is 'Keep it in the fridge so that it doesn't spoil'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par José Estrella le jeu 01/03/2018 - 18:34

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Hi "The LearnEnglish Team", I am absolutely intrigued about the correct use of a verb phrase. Please, how British native speakers say: "to wear a beard" or "to have a beard"? Or, perhaps both are correct but they mean different things? Thanks a lot for your time! José

Hi José,

Both forms are possible but they have different meanings. If a person has a natural beard then we say 'have'. If a person has an artificial beard - an actor, for example - then we say 'wear'.

It is a little different for hair. We generally say 'have' but we can use 'wear' to describe styles:

She has blonde hair.

She's wearing her hair in braids today.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par José Estrella le ven 02/03/2018 - 10:38

En réponse à par Peter M.

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Hi Peter, Thanks so much for your explanations! Greetings, José.

Soumis par Pavan Kaur le sam 23/09/2017 - 10:52

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Hello Team I had been proceeding in an easterly direction - In this example "had been proceeding" as per me is a passive voice. I just did the task given above. the answer suggestion says that it is active voice. Please explain. also tell me what is the passive voice of the same if it is active voice.

Hello Pavan Kaur,

'proceed' is an intransitive verb; intransitive verbs do not have passive forms. You might want to look at the definition and example sentences in the dictionary.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ramachandran V… le ven 08/09/2017 - 20:03

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This is just to point out a spelling mistake found under'"be" past participle' namely ,'They-might have been-invited-to the part' Here the 'y' of 'party' is missing.

Hello Ramachandran Vatakara,

Thank you very much for flagging this for us. We check our materials very carefully but mistakes sometimes get through and it's great that we have such observant users on the site.

I have updated the page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par harini le dim 16/07/2017 - 14:07

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Hello Teacher, In the below sentence, is Let the main verb? "Let's go to the beach". Thanks Harini

Hello harini,

Yes, I would say that 'let' is the main verb here and 'go' is an infinitive form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Marvininer le sam 08/07/2017 - 14:24

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I have a question about the use of was vs is. Before each commercial of a given, a local TV station will state a message that says "This program is brought to you by (name of sponsor)". But, after the program, the same message is still stated. Is that still correct? Shouldn't it be "was brought", instead? And, why do other states "is being brought"? Thanks.

Hello Marvininer,

We don't generally comment on other websites or books, including TV adverts, but here I can say that I agree with you. Really, they should say 'has been brought' or 'was brought' afterward the programme, though I suppose one could argue that since the program is shown at a regular time each week, 'is brought' is also possibly correct. 'is being brought' is a present continuous form in the passive voice.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Marvinner the used tense for the TV ad is correct. the differnce between the present continuous and the present simple is that the present simple is used to give pure information valid at the time of speaking. it is an objective information. For example. when someone is alive. we say " HE LIVES IN LONDON" but once he is dead, we no longer say HE LIVES IN LONDON but HE LIVED IN LONDON because the relation between HE and LIVE IN LONDON is no longer valid. whereas the present continuous is used to explicit to justify, to comment on a fact. it is a sujective information located with respect to the speaker. he is is the only one who can guarrantee the truth of his utterance. the present continuous is always used to make clear a hidden reason. For example: "I am dying" only the speaker can tell you the reason why he says it. so when I say " this program is brought to you by...........", here I am just giving pure information. what I am saying is true at the very moment I say it, for without that sponsor you wouldn't be watching that TV program at that time and that the name of the sponsor is written on the TV screen. The ad uses the same message at the end because the information it states is still valid at that time. using the present continuous would mean explaining or justifying something that is not clear in the mind of your audience.

Soumis par Enya le ven 10/03/2017 - 15:40

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Hi teacher, I do not understand the answer in the last task - I (had been proceeding) in an easterly direction ... And the proper answer of "had been proceeding" is active. Can you explain more for me, please?

Soumis par Jarek_O le dim 22/01/2017 - 20:57

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Hi Team, from this article: 2) an auxiliary verb ("be") and a main verb in –ing form (...) 4) (...) A verb with "have" and "been" and the present participle expresses (...) Do a main verb in -ing form and a present participle mean the same, or is there any difference?

Hello Jarek_O,

The '-ing form' of a verb and the present participle of a verb have the same form, i.e. look the same. For example, the -ing form and present participle of the verb 'go' are both 'going'.

The reason there is more than one term is that this form of a verb can be used in different ways. '-ing form' is the most general way to refer to this form. When it is used in adverbially, e.g. in a participle clause (e.g. 'Going home, she relaxed'), we call it a present participle. But when this form is used as the subject of a verb (e.g. 'Going home is not a good idea'), it's called a gerund.

I hope that clarifies it for you, but if not, please let me know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par taj25 le dim 01/01/2017 - 12:07

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hi kirk The windows have been cleaned. (this active voice & passive voice lesson) my question is "been" always with come present perfect continuous why did not use verb+ing form for verb. can i use verb+ing form here. i am little get confuse. kindly clarify me. lots of thanks

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 02/01/2017 - 08:03

En réponse à par taj25

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Hi taj25,

'Been' is the third form (the past participle) of 'be' and is used in a number of forms, not only in the present perfect continuous. The form in your example is present perfect passive.

You can read more about passive voice here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par mahua_chakravarty le mer 28/12/2016 - 06:28

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Hello, Thanks a lot for all the lessons provided here on this website.It is very informative.I am learning English again!(after what I learnt in school,which I hardly remember!) Please help me to understand auxiliary verbs and modal verbs. What I have understood from the lesson is that auxiliary verbs are (is,was,were,has,have,had) and modal verbs are(can,could,may,might,must,shall,should,will,would). Are there any more auxiliary and modal verbs which I have not included in the list? If not then I will memorize these words, however,if there are more then please suggest how do we define and identify auxiliary and modal verbs. Also,I did not understand what is ("be"). And what is a present participle? Thanks and regards, Mahua

Soumis par Kirk le mer 28/12/2016 - 12:34

En réponse à par mahua_chakravarty

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Hello mahua_chakravarty,

There are three main auxiliary verbs in English ('be', 'do' and 'have'), though modal verbs are also a kind of auxiliary verb. This Cambridge Dictionary page has a detailed explanation of auxiliary verbs - be sure to scroll down to the Auxiliary verbs section - and Modal verbs are explained further down that same page.

'be' is the infinitive form of verb forms such as 'is', 'are', 'am', 'was' and 'were'. A present participle is the -ing form of a verb (e.g. 'going', 'doing', etc.) and can be used in many different ways (e.g. to form the present continuous).

I think that should answer your questions, but if not, please feel free to ask us any other short, specific questions you may have.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Fatemeh Roostaei le sam 24/12/2016 - 20:46

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Hi there, What are the aspects of the 'a modal verb and a main verb' and ' a modal verb with "be", "have" and verb (-ing form of the verb)? I mean the number 5 and 6. Thank you

Soumis par Peter M. le dim 25/12/2016 - 07:32

En réponse à par Fatemeh Roostaei

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Hi Fatemeh,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question here. What do you mean by 'the aspects of'?

If you can quote the particular sentences you mean it would help. There are several tasks on the page and I don't know which numbers 5 and 6 you mean.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Fatemeh Roostaei le mer 28/12/2016 - 13:13

En réponse à par Peter M.

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Hi Peter I mean "modal+verb" and "modal+auxiliary+verb", do these structure make any verb phrase? If yes, explain it, please.

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 29/12/2016 - 07:17

En réponse à par Fatemeh Roostaei

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Hi Fatemeh Roostaei,

In point 6 of the explanation above you can see examples of modal + auxiliary + verb. Is this what you mean? If so, then you have some examples there. If not, then please provide an example sentence and we'll be happy to comment.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par T.A le dim 18/12/2016 - 18:07

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Hello, Dear Learn English Team, I have studied English for 5 years, but my Eng not too good. I've just known Learn English about 2 months, but the program is really helpful to me. Please tell me, where I can improve my vocab and my writting skill. It's my pleasure if support team will reply my p.s: if you reply my comment, i'll receive an email? or how could i know my comment was replied?

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 19/12/2016 - 07:04

En réponse à par T.A

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Hello T.A,

It's great to hear that our site is helping you! You can find advice on vocabulary and writing (and on other aspects of learning English) on our Frequently Asked Questions page. You might also take a look at our Getting Started page, which has some useful advice too.

If you go to your account settings (here) and choose to edit your settings you'll see an option to set a notification for comment responses which should allow you set an email notification. Of course, you can also just check back on this page. We rarely take more than 48 hours to respond to questions we are asked.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par MCWSL le dim 18/12/2016 - 12:27

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Hello, I would like to ask some questions: ''The great place to be(being) in'' What is the difference between the sentences when infinitive or gerund form decribes the noun? ''What she looks like?'' ''What does she look like?'' Which question form is correct? ''What time should I go to the break at?'' ''When should I go to the break at?'' Those have the same meaning, but should I use preposition ''at'' in the second sentence? I want to say that I was doing something on or in area, but I do not know which preposition I should choose. Could you help me on that? Do you have any advice how to search on dictionaries for particular prepositions? Thank you for given time.

Soumis par Kirk le dim 18/12/2016 - 17:48

En réponse à par MCWSL

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Hello MCWSL,

In 1, only the infinitive form is correct. In 2, only the second form is correct. In 3, no, 'at' should not be used with the question beginning with 'when'. For 4, I'm afraid I'm not sure what to recommend, as I don't understand what the sentence means. Perhaps if you supply the context I can help you.

Finding the correct preposition can indeed be quite difficult. The first thing I'd recommend is to look in two or three good dictionaries, as other ones don't typically include example sentences. Cambridge, Oxford and Macmillan, for example, are dictionaries that I'd recommend. You can also do internet searches with the different prepositions to see examples of how they are used. This is more difficult, but can also be useful, particularly when you don't find what you're looking for in dictionaries. You can also ask us, of course, but please be sure to provide the context, as this is often essential in determining what is correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par MCWSL le jeu 15/12/2016 - 12:49

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Hello I would like to ask some questions about following: ''I'll be working until 26th of November'' (Shouldn't future simple be used here because the tense in example means the doer works after mentioned day?) ''Do you think she'll have seen the doctor by four o'clock'' I looked up the meaning of this sentence in the Cambridge dictionary and I wasn't able to understand this: ''We use the future perfect form when we look back to the past from a point in the future''. where is that ''looking-back'' to the past? Could you explain this to me please. ''I am under a lot of pressure lately'' Is ''under pressure'' an expression like on time/purpose? ''what time is it'' ''what is the time'' Do those sentences have the same meaning, and are they both ordinary question forms? Many thanks.

Soumis par Kirk le ven 16/12/2016 - 09:35

En réponse à par MCWSL

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Hello MCWSL,

For your first two questions, I'd suggest you look at our Future Continuous & Future Perfect page for our explanation, but I'll also answer your questions: the future continuous does not mean the person works after that day - it's more a question of how we view the time period until that day. A little while ago, I wrote to another user about the use of the continuous aspect; please take a look at my comment and then if you have any questions after that, let us know.

In the example about the doctor, at four o'clock (which is the future), she will already have gone to the doctor or not - at four o'clock, her going to the doctor will be the past. The future perfect is used for situations like this, where we're talking about the future, but of something that will be in the past at that time in the future. It's a bit difficult to explain, but I hope that helps.

Yes, 'to be under pressure' means that people or a situation is putting pressure on you. Both of the questions asking the time are correct. I'd say the first is a bit more common, but both are used and mean the same thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Deepanraj06 le ven 02/12/2016 - 12:01

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I am not clear with this sentences. Someone has cleaned the windows The windows have been cleaned. The place of has and have, it's confusing. We can say the windows has been cleaned.

Hello Deepanraj06,

The first sentence is in the active voice and the second one is in the passive voice. There's an explanation of this on our active and passive page. Note that in the first sentence, the subject 'someone' is singular, which is why the verb is singular ('has'). In the second sentence, the subject 'windows' is plural, which is why the verb is plural.

It would be incorrect to say 'The windows has been cleaned' (though you could say 'The window has been cleaned').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par hasibrj le mer 28/09/2016 - 09:47

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Thank you. Actually, I got that example in a grammar book, which also confused me. They mentioned this "quasi-passive voice" term in that book, and I searched to find some authentic information about it but I couldn't, which brought me to ask you about it. Actually, my question was: Is there any "quasi-passive voice or quasi-passive verb" term in English grammar?

Hello hasibrj,

I'm not familiar with the term 'quasi-passive'. Nor did I find it in the Wikipedia or any of my reference books, though there is some mention of it on the internet. I have no idea, but I wonder if it could refer to ergative verbs, which are verbs that can be used both transitively and intransitively.

Sorry!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par hasibrj le mar 27/09/2016 - 22:23

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Hello Peter M, Hope you are doing well. Actually, I'm really confused about "Quasi-passive". For example; "The house is building", the meaning will be different if reads don't aware about it. So, When should I use this quasi-passive? Are there any specific rules to use it. If any, would you please suggest me about it. Thank you!

Hello hasibrj,

I'm afraid I don't quite understand your question. I can't think of a context in which we would say 'The house is building'. We might say 'The house is being built', which would be a normal passive form, or 'They are building the house', which is a normal active form.

There is no grammatical form termed the 'quasi-passive'. Passive voice is formed with transitive verbs by making the recipient of the action the subject of the verb. Passive voice cannot be formed from intransitive verbs.

You can read more about passive voice here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nizam Balinese le mer 21/09/2016 - 14:54

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I read news in the newspaper this morning and then I've confusion about its grammatical. "Photos show four police officers armed with handguns, batons, and paper spray standing around the woman, who wearing a blue headscarf and matching top while lying on the beach". ------------ Why does Verb-ing (standing) in the sentence not use auxiliary 'are' and Verb-ing (wearing) not use auxiliary 'is'? Would you like to explain, please? Thanks.

Hello Nizam Balinese,

The verb 'standing' here is not a present continuous form (which would have the auxiliary) but rather a present participle. It forms a participle phrase (also called a participle clause). You can read more about this form on this page.

The verb 'wearing', on the other hand, is a present continuous form here and it should have 'was' before it. This is simply an error in the sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok thanks Peter. ones again just to make sure. "Many have highlated the hypocrisy of the ban on social media by comparing photos of woman being ordered to undress by armed police to image of a police officer measuring the length of a woman's swimsuit 1925". ---------------------- "A woman being ordered" and "Police officer measuring" They should have the auxiliary 'was', shouldn't they?

Hello Nizam Balinese,

These are the same as the earlier example and are participles not present continuous forms. There is no need for the auxiliary.

The participles act as adjectives. They follow the noun and describe the current activity of the noun.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Salma Sleem le mer 24/08/2016 - 22:26

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How distinction in meaning between the auxiliary verbs(have- be - have been)