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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Submitted by Lal on Sat, 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

Submitted by Lal on Fri, 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

Submitted by Lal on Thu, 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

Submitted by Lal on Wed, 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

Submitted by Lal on Thu, 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

Submitted by Lal on Fri, 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

Submitted by Ilariuccia on Fri, 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.

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

Submitted by Ilariuccia on Thu, 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...
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 05/04/2018 - 19:45

In reply to by 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

Submitted by Marua on Wed, 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.
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 29/03/2018 - 06:09

In reply to by 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

Submitted by SonuKumar on Fri, 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

Submitted by José Estrella on Thu, 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

Submitted by José Estrella on Fri, 02/03/2018 - 10:38

In reply to by Peter M.

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

Submitted by lexeus on Tue, 25/08/2015 - 07:59

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Hi Team Could you explain the difference between Verbal Phrase and A Verb Phrase? Thanks.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 25/08/2015 - 20:25

In reply to by 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