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 skinnypigeon le mer 31/07/2013 - 16:55

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Hello Learn English Team! I have asked several questions on different pages of this website. Hoping that you people won't mind my asking so many questions, I'm going to ask one more. It's about the verb "build". There's a teacher in our town who teaches B.A English and he says that you can never say

       "Shah jahan built Taj Mahal"  because he himself never built it, instead he got it built or had it built. I need to know if in modern standard English we could say that "We're building a new house" or "We built this house in 1990". I mean I've seen a lot of movies, and I've never heard anyone saying "we had our house built in 1990"

I'll be really grateful if you could explain. Thanks.

Hello skinnypigeon,

It is perfectly acceptable to say 'we had our house built'.  The structure is usually called 'the causative have and we use it when we pay for someone to do a service for us, such as building a house, washing the car, cutting our hair and so on..

It is also perfectly acceptable to use the past simple in the examples you provide; it is not necessary to have done it with your own hands.  I can't comment on your teacher and would not want to; however, remember that teachers sometimes simplify rules or explanations because they want to highlight one point or another, or because they want to practise one form rather than another.

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You so much Peter! It's been really helpful indeed. I don't mean to hassle you but I'd like to ask if it is acceptable in standard British English to say "We built our house in 1990" Despite the fact that we did have it built by someone else? This is what I really need to know. Could you please explain if it sounds natural in both written or spoken English? Thanks again.

Hello Skinnypigeon,

That sounds natural to me. It's not very precise and might even be a bit misleading, but I think you'd have to survey a representative sample of English speakers to see how they felt about it.

Interesting question!

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par birds le lun 22/07/2013 - 17:54

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Hello...plz make the sentence in present simple, past simple and future tense...and the verbs ate Get,Take,Sing,Put,Read...thnks in advance

Dear birds,

If you'd like, you could write sentences with these verbs in the tenses you mention, and then we can point out any errors you make. I would recommend that you look at our irregular verbs page, where you can see a chart with all the different forms and do a practice exercise, as well as our page on talking about the future.

And by the way, ate is the simple past form of the verb eat.

Good luck!

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par louder le ven 19/04/2013 - 03:40

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hello  every people and all the admins ! it's me again ! first of all, i want to say thank you so much to all the helps ,that is, all the answers you replied me all the time ! :)  in the moment, i have a question  for this sentence :

" Hold on ! Let me go get change "

i don't know the structure go + get!  i'm wondering why it's not " go to get !  i think V + V with this case . could you explain it for me ? it's informal , isn't it ? how can i understand the difference between these structures ? Thank you a lot !

the best wishes !

Hello louder!

 

Thanks for your kind words! Glad you appreciate our help!

 

In answer to your question, go get changed is spoken and informal, and more common in American English than British English. It is not really grammatical, but a shorter form of go and get changed, which just a normal V and V structure. In British English, we would normally say go and get changed.

 

Hope that helps!

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

 

thank you ! by the way, i think "change " here is a noun !is it ok ?  the whole sentences :

A : come on ! let's go out and do some shoping

B : ok ! hold on ! let me go get change !

the best wishes !

Soumis par j_amarildo le jeu 28/02/2013 - 20:53

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Hi, now I have a doubt here. 
I don't understood how to use the modal verbs as "have been". Also, I didn't manage understand the mean of the phrase "She must have been listening". It is the same that "She did would be listening"?

In the phrase "He has been working very hard lately.", why the auxiliary verb  is "has" and not "been"?

I am thankfull for your replies! ;)

Soumis par dakdoka03 le mar 08/01/2013 - 16:20

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hi

i have a big problem of read and write in English could you please tell me the best way to improve my skills in English

thinks  

Hello dakdoka03!

Well, you've come to the right place for help! You should see this website as a library – just borrow whatever interests you! A good place to start is our Elementary Podcasts. These are short radio shows about different topics. To help your listening, vocabulary and grammar, you can listen to them, read the transcripts, and do the exercises. You can talk to other learners in the comments, too. This will help your writing.

 

Don't forget that we also have a search box. Put a topic you're interested in into the box – like 'meeting people' or 'the present simple' - and you'll get a list of pages about that topic.

 

We have a lot of different levels on the site, so don't worry if something is too hard – find something easier, and come back to it later. Just try to look at something every day!

 

Hope that helps,

Jeremy Bee

Soumis par Abhimanyu kamble le jeu 25/10/2012 - 04:47

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hi The use of pharse in english i think its showing the qulity of strongness of the sentense so please you tell me the more skill how to use pharse

Soumis par ace08 le sam 30/06/2012 - 01:01

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Hi The LearnEnglish Team!

I've been studying English since I was in grade school. I came to the UK nine years ago, went to school and improved my English even more. However, I'm still confused about some aspects of the language. Like if you use the phrase "must have heard" in a sentence to make a deduction or a logical conclusion, what then is the inverse or negative of this? "Musn't have heard" doesn't sound grammatical. Do we use "can't have heard" in this instance? Also, how do you ask the question to verify that somebody "must have heard" something? 

Thanks.

Soumis par AdamJK le sam 30/06/2012 - 22:32

En réponse à par ace08

Permalien

Hi,

Congratulations on making so much progress with your English.

As for your first question, you are right that 'can't have heard' is usually a good negative form of 'must have heard'.  I've heard people use 'mustn't have', but it doesn't sound as good to me.

You could ask a question by saying 'Must she have heard it?', but it's much more likely that someone would just ask 'Would she have heard it?' or 'Did she hear it?'

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Adam!

Thanks so much for answering these questions. A teacher of mine mentioned before that it's good to ask concept checking questions with these types of sentences. Unfortunately, the explanation of concept checking questions was not very clear to me. Can you elaborate on this please? 

Best regards,

Ace

Soumis par Cynthia Xue le ven 29/06/2012 - 08:07

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Hi:

The Learn English Team.

I am learning the grammar. And now, I am confused.

Could you please show me the difference between the past/present simple and the past/present tense?

Thank you.

Soumis par madina jallow le dim 06/05/2012 - 20:25

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the ex are very interesting so i did my best 

my mean problem in english is: i try from time to time to translate sentenses directly in frensh, who can give me some councils

Hello madina!

 

Don't worry. My students often have the same problem - but they translate into Chinese! It's a perfectly normal stage in learning a language. It will disappear with practice. To help you get a feel for how we say things in English, make sure you use some of our exercises and materials for listening and reading, like our Elementary English podcast, as well as doing grammar exercises.

 

Hope that helps!

 

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello madina!

Don't worry. My students often have the same problem - but they translate into Chinese! It's a perfectly normal stage in learning a language. It will disappear with practice. To help you get a feel for how we say things in English, make sure you use some of our exercises and materials for listening and reading, like our Elementary English podcast, as well as doing grammar exercises.

Hope that helps!

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team
 

Soumis par l2006h2008 le lun 30/04/2012 - 07:47

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Hi everyone,

Nice to see useful website like this,my basic problem with grammar cannot understand well when someone speaking.thanks

 

Soumis par Eliane Pereira le dim 29/04/2012 - 21:12

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Hay,

somebody can help me please,I have little problem with check answer the  exercise , the button the answer does not work and other exercise i try put the answer and nothing happen.please what i have to doing.

thanks

Hi,how are everybody?

I like this site so much,i learning too much English.

I hope you are lucky like me.

By we see guys.

 

this happens when you have some mistakes in your answers. if you can't find the correct form just click in 'finish' to know the correct forms and your score

Soumis par M.MOHAN le lun 16/04/2012 - 11:30

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hi,

These exercises are really good.

thanks BC Team 

Soumis par waqas ahmad le lun 02/04/2012 - 19:09

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Hello,

Just tell me how i can improve my Grammar. 

Soumis par Carlos Andrés … le mer 21/03/2012 - 00:13

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Hello The LearnEnglish Team!

I was wondering why, in the 6th question of the third test, is just "has" the auxiliary verb and not the both "has" and "been"?

Thank you

Soumis par pandeyanil le mer 01/02/2012 - 11:04

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Hi,

The Learn English Team

I am Anil and learning English with your site. It is very useful website for all learners who want to improve their English grammar. I have a basic problem. when I start to write a sentence I do lots of spelling mistakes. I try all the times but my spelling mistake problem do not solve. One problem also, when I write I do not feel confident about my sentence and vocabulary. Please help me and give me some tips so that I can improve my writing skill and improve my spelling mistakes.