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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Hello Salma Sleem,

Auxiliary verbs are helper verbs used with other verbs to make verb forms. The auxiliaries themselves do not carry intrinsic meaning, but rather the whole verb form carries the meaning. Therefore you should look up the particular verb forms in our Verbs section, not just the auxiliary verbs.

If there is a particular form about which you have a question then we'll be happy to help. Please include a concrete example - a sentence - as it is hard to discuss these things clearly in such an abstract way.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ondra K le dim 31/07/2016 - 23:31

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I know it is off-topic a bit, but one question about articles: You write: "an auxiliary verb ("be") and a main verb in –ing form" Why do you use "an" before "auxiliary" and not "the"? We are talking about a specific verb, so why the indefinite article?

Soumis par LoveKumar le mar 26/07/2016 - 06:32

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Sir, what is the main verb in the following sentences? 1) The irrigation department has to complete 85 tanks. 2) I want to become an officer is my ambition. Verbs in the first sentence are has, complete. Verbs in the second sentence are want, become. These sentences have multiple verbs, how to find the main verb and how to find the subject of the sentence.

Hello LoveKumar,

In your first sentence, 'has' is an auxiliary verb; 'to complete' is the main verb.

Your second sentence is not grammatical. The best way to say this would be 'Becoming an officer is my ambition' and then there is only one verb - 'becoming' is a gerund, which is a noun form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 28/07/2016 - 05:25

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Hello LoveKumar,

In your sentence 'has' is a semi-modal auxiliary verb and therefore cannot be the main verb. The main verb here is the marked infinitive 'to complete'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par chedD1t le lun 27/06/2016 - 20:19

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Hello! I couldn't find the section about `there is there are` and so I am writing here. This is a part of a story ~Pacey walked into the room where his English class was going to take place.And he had a surprise.A beautiful blond woman was standing behind the teacher's desk. It was Tamara - the gorgeous woman who had rented the videos.~ The question is why can't say ~There was a beautiful blond woman standing behind the teacher's desk? Thank you!

Soumis par Ambitious learner le lun 09/05/2016 - 00:24

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hello sir In the sentence " I have been reading this book for three week. this is really a long book" which one is the verb phrase? " have been reading" or " have been reading this book" or " have been reading this book for three weeks"? because as per the wikipedia a verb phrase is a syntactic unite composed of at list one verb and its dependents objects - complement - modifiers but not always the subject.

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 09/05/2016 - 07:01

En réponse à par Ambitious learner

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Hello Ambitious learner,

Please tell us what you think the verb phrase is and why; we will then tell you if you are correct or not.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir. i thought the verb phrase in here must be " have been reading" 'a modal +been + v + ing'. and ' this book' should be a noun phrase and ' for three weeks' should be a prepositional phrase. but when i viewed the Wikipedia site I got confused because according to them, a verb's dependents are also part of the verb phrase. best regards

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 11/05/2016 - 07:20

En réponse à par Ambitious learner

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Hello Ambitious learner,

If you look on the wikipedia page for verb phrase you will see several different and, in a sense, competing approaches to classification. Scroll down to the section entitled 'Verb phrases narrowly defined' and you will see that your description fits this model (well done). This is the model which I think is most accessible and most useful for teachers and learners of English, and is the model I suggest you use. 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par NA7 le sam 27/02/2016 - 18:54

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Hello learning team, I got a bit confused when I read the previous learner comment: "Active: I used to play cricket. Passive: Cricket used to be played by me." Shouldn't be "Passive: Cricket was used to be played by me." Could you correct me if I am wrong, please? Thank you in advanced

Hello NA7,

The form you suggest ('Cricked was used to be played...') is not correct. 'used to' acts kind of like a modal verb here, and cannot be put into a passive form. 'play' is the verb that is put in the passive, and 'used to' is used with the auxiliary verb 'be': 'Cricket used to be played...' 

By the way, this sentence is so unnatural-sounding that you're not likely ever to hear it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par muslimbadshah le mar 16/02/2016 - 11:19

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Hello Sir, I have a problem with these sentences. I am confused with them whether I changed them correctly or incorrectly. Active: I used to play cricket. Passive: Cricket used to be played by me. Active: I did not use to play cricket. Passive: Cricket did not use to be played by me. Active: Did I use to play cricket? Passive: Did cricket use to be played by me? ______________________________ Another problem is, how to change emphatic sentences into passive voice. Active: I do play cricket. Active: Do play cricket. Active: I did play cricket. Active: I will do play cricket. It should be changed like a simple present or we have any rule for emphatic sentences. I am unable to change these emphatic sentences. I will be highly obliged to you if you help me with these sentences. Thanks in advance.

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 17/02/2016 - 08:19

En réponse à par muslimbadshah

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Hello muslimbadshah,

Your first set of sentences (active > passive) are all correct - well done.

Your second set (emphatic) have several errors. The emphatic form you need is only available in simple tenses ('I do play'/'I did play'), not with modal verbs such as 'will'. For these forms we would add emphasis with a modifier such as 'really'. There are no equivalent passive forms to the emphatic 'do' or 'did'; we simply use a normal passive and add emphasis with our tone of voice or with an adverb modifier such as 'really' or 'honestly'.

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nuruddin Filan le jeu 04/02/2016 - 14:26

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Can we make a passive sentence from a verb which has no an object ????

Hello Nuruddin Filan,

No, the sentence needs an object in order for a passive sentence to be formed. You can use either a direct or an indirect object, however.

For more information on passive voice please see this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par NA7 le sam 23/01/2016 - 11:53

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when I tried to answer the active or passive paragraph, it shows 20 questions needed to be answered but the scroll does not go beyond the 19th question. Could you please check this exercise?

Hello NA7,

I've checked the exercise and I can see and answer all 20 questions. The final one should be 'begin' - can you see this one?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par lizzie1987 le mar 12/01/2016 - 20:39

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Hello sir, I have a question about the active and passive form of the verb. I did the activity for this topic and I'm confused on this "had been proceeding". I answered it as a passive form but the correct answer is active. As I understand the topic, passive verbs are made up of the verb "be', how does it happen to be an active form? Could you give us a tip how can we classify the verb into an active or passive form? A bit confusing for me. Thank you so much in advance.

Hello lizzie1987,

Passive forms are made with 'be + past participle' and in this form there is no past participle. Instead, there is an 'ing form'. It is an example of the past perfect continuous (active) form. Past perfect forms are made with 'had + past participle', and continuous forms are made with 'be + verbing':

It had proceeded (past perfect active)

It had been proceeded (past perfect passive)

It had been proceeding (past perfect continuous active)

It had been being proceeded (past perfect continuous passive)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 04/02/2016 - 09:43

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Hello andrew international,

Yes, that is correct. Unfortunately I am a poor typist!

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par ritesh46 le sam 26/12/2015 - 15:45

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hello sir, why activities appear in short box. and i face difficulty in find English grammar part. when i click at English grammar then there is no link for grammar exercise. thank.

Hello yogesh,

We're sorry about the problems with the exercises here. We just changed to a new format earlier this week and this is one problem that we're working on. Hopefully in the next week it will be solved.

The Grammar Exercises section no longer exists, but you can find the exercises that were in it in the Quick Grammar now.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par ZBint le mer 04/11/2015 - 19:19

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Hi, I'm trying to label the following sentence: The Dutch and the Portuguese had long competed for gaining control of the Oceanic trade network of the Indian merchants. Am I correct in saying, "had [long] compete for gaining control" is my verb phrase?

Hello ZBint,

Depending on how much detail you want to go into, you could break this down in different ways. There's a really handy sentence parser that will show you a detailed analysis.

Hope this helps!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Muaz Hanafi le ven 16/10/2015 - 13:08

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Hello, please can you tell me how to use present perfect continuous or past perfect continuous is passive?

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 16/10/2015 - 20:40

En réponse à par Muaz Hanafi

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Hello Muaz Hanafi,

You can find information on the present perfect simple and continuous on several pages on the site, including here, here and here - and you can find others on the site by searching for 'present perfect'.

For information on passive voice look here and here.

We're happy to answer specific questions, of course, but for longer explanations you need to look a little for yourself, as it's not possible for us to write long and detailed explanations of broad grammar areas in these comments.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ana Carmiol le mer 09/09/2015 - 03:24

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Peter: Thank you very much for your answer. You explain me very clearly. Best regards.

Soumis par Ana Carmiol le mar 08/09/2015 - 03:59

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Hello, May you explain to me, why had been proceeding is active? I think is passive because is verb to be + participle. thank you

Hello Ana Carmiol,

This is an example of a perfect progressive form, not a passive:

present progressive: He is eating his dinner.

past progressive: He was eating his dinner.

present perfect progressive: He has been eating his dinner.

past perfect progressive: He had been eating his dinner.

'Been' is used in passive forms, but it is also used in other forms too.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par lexeus le mar 25/08/2015 - 07:59

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Hi Team Could you explain the difference between Verbal Phrase and A Verb Phrase? Thanks.

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 25/08/2015 - 20:25

En réponse à par lexeus

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Hello lexeus,

I am not aware of any specific distinction. 'Verbal' is simply the adjectival form; 'verb' is the noun.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Nandishchandra le lun 22/06/2015 - 19:13

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Hi LearnEnglishTeam, What is the difference between finite and non-finite verbs? The book i read reads, except infinitive,participle,and gerund,all forms are finite. Also reads finite verbs can be main verbs,and doesn't mention something as to non finite verbs. why can't non-finite verbs be main verbs?. Please give a little clarity to this... Thanks... Best Regards, Nandish BC

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 02/07/2015 - 08:27

En réponse à par Nandishchandra

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Hi Nandish,

Sorry about that, though really this isn't the sort of question we typically answer, as these categories are more for syntax specialists than learners. I'd recommend you read the wikipedia pages on Finite and Nonfinite verbs, which offer clear and relatively simple explanations of what these categories mean.

Good luck!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par manglavipul1 le jeu 21/05/2015 - 08:28

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Hello Peter Please tell me the meaning of the "Perfect" word used in the verb. As we already know the meaning of the "Present" and "Past" and also the logic behind the use of that word but i did not know the logic behind the used of "Perfect" word. Please tell me the reason and logic for the same. Thanks in Advance.

Hello manglavipul1,

'Perfect' refers to the aspect (rather than tense) of the verb. You can find out more about perfect forms on this page.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par ammu1986 le lun 30/03/2015 - 21:17

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Hello sir Please explain me about,how to use the "be" verb in English (I didn't mean be forms like am is are was were)I mean only "be" word uses in english. Thank you sir

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 30/03/2015 - 22:11

En réponse à par ammu1986

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Hello ammu1986,

'Be' is an infinitive, and is used the same way all infinitives are used. It is also used in some verb forms, such as the passive. You can see these verb forms on this page.

It's not really possible for us to give long explanations in these sections of broad areas of language, such as all the ways in which 'be' is used in English. If there is a particular example you wish to ask about then please post it in reply and we'll be happy to explain, of course.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ujma le jeu 19/03/2015 - 10:53

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Why "when I have finished my work, we can celebrate". why not "when I shall have finished my work, we can celebrate".

Hello Ujma,

The future perfect ('shall have + past participle') is not used in this way in English. In a time clause with 'when' that refers to a completed action in the future, we use the present perfect ('have + present participle').

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par sidlfc le mar 30/12/2014 - 05:52

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Hello Mr Kirk, Hope you're having a great week! Well I've been trying to figure out two things from the following sentence, ''We should be practicing English very often'' 1. I see the formation of 'Modal verb + be + continuous form' but I have no clue which tense or form is it? 2. What would your strategy be in teaching it to the students ? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in full faith! Sid

Hello Sid,

As you know, modal verbs are followed by infinitive forms without 'to'. Usually this is a base form:

We should practise English.

However, we can also use a continuous infinitive, which is formed with [be + verbing]:

We should be practising English.

When teaching this I simply present it as another form of the infinitive, which they can use just as the normal (simple) infinitive is used. We often think of the infinitive as a fixed form but in fact it is possible to show that there are several kinds of infinitive:

He should call now. [simple infinitive]

He should be calling now. [continuous infinitive]

He should have called by now. [perfect infinitive]

He should be called now. [passive infinitive]

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Why "when I have finished my work, we can celebrate". why not "when I shall have finished my work, we can celebrate".

Hello Ujma,

I've already answered this question above. Please ask your questions only once. We moderate all comments before they are published, so it can take a few hours for your comment to appear.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Abdulgafar le jeu 25/12/2014 - 02:38

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Sirs, good morning. Pls i need you to express the correctness of this sentence: "I'm sorry, you might have been disturbed by my calls"

Hello Abdulgafar,

That sentence is quite correct. However, if you intend to apologise for something which may have happened (but you are not sure) then using 'if' would be the most natural way:

I'm sorry if you were disturbed by my calls.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

 

Soumis par colonyhari le dim 16/11/2014 - 07:35

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Hello sir, Your website is very helpful for English learners, thanks for teaching English. I have a doubt, They have completed the work (or) They have been completed the work This is the big confusion among many students. So kindly explain the sentence with examples. Thanks, Hari prasath.T