English Grammar/Basic Parts of Speech/Verbs

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Definition[edit]

A verb is a word or group of words expressing an action or a state, especially a state of being.

Categories of Verbs[edit]

Generally, verbs fall into any of four basic categories, based upon their functions. Many verbs have more than one function and therefore can be considered to fall into more than one category.

  1. Action verbs describe physical or mental action.
    • Transitive verbs take a direct and/or indirect object.
    • Intransitive verbs take no object.
      (Note: Passive verbs always are intransitive, but they become transitive when changed to the active mood.)
  2. Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence to its complements: a predicate noun, a predicate pronoun or a predicate adjective. They do not express action and thus may be considered intransitive. They include:
    • The forms of “to be,” (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, become, and became.)
    • Various verbs related to the senses (appear, feel, look, smell, sound, taste, etc.)
    • Verbs expressing condition or placement of the subject (become, grow, remain, seem, stay, etc.)
  3. Auxiliary verbs are used to inflect various verb tenses, moods, etc. The auxiliary verbs are:
    • The forms of “to be,” (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, become, and became.)
    • The forms of “have,” (has, have, had.)
    • The forms of “do,” (do, does, did.)
  4. Modal verbs are used to express influence over the subject of the sentence, e.g. duty/obligation, ability/permission, volition, or necessity. The modal verbs are as follows.
    • May, might, and must
    • Can and could
    • Will, would, shall, and should
    • Ought (to), had better and had best
    • Have to and need to
    • Used to
    • Dare

Some verbs can function as either linking or action verbs depending on how they are used.

  • The drainage smelled foul. (Linking verb)
  • The dog smelled the blooming flowers. (Action verb)

Other verbs can function as either linking or auxiliary verbs, again depending on usage.

  • The man in the bow tie was barking mad. (Linking verb)
  • The woman was trying to help him anyway. (Auxiliary verb)

Verb Phrases[edit]

Verb phrases are formed by the combination of linking or auxiliary/modal verbs with main verbs to complete an idea.

Linking/Auxiliary/Modal Verb + Main Verb = Verb Phrase
is + singing = is singing
would have + gone = would have gone
will have been + working = will have been working

Principal Parts of Verbs[edit]

The principal parts are a verb’s basic forms, from which its other forms can be created by inflection or conjugation. In English, there are three principal parts. These are the simple present indicative, the simple past indicative, and the past perfect indicative.

It is worth noting that lists or recitations of principal parts in English often omit the third principal part’s auxiliary verb, rendering it identically to its grammatically distinct participial form.

There are two kinds of verb in English, regular (or weak) and irregular (or strong). Regular verbs’ second and third principal parts are identical (with the exception that the third principal part takes the auxiliary verb “have”), e.g. play, played, (have) played. Irregular verbs’ second and/or third principal parts contain at least a stem vowel change, e.g. do, did, (have) done.

Regular Verbs[edit]

Regular, or weak, verbs form the second principal part by appending -(e)d to the first principal part. (Note that for some verbs, the final consonant is doubled before adding the -ing.) The third principal part is formed by appending -(e)d to the first principal part, combined with use of the auxiliary verb “have.”

The Participle I (more commonly called the “present participle”) is formed by appending -ing to the first principal part. The Participle III (more commonly called the “past participle”) is identical in inflection to the third principal part sans auxiliary verb.

Following is a list of some regular verbs in their different parts.

Simple Present
Present Participle
Simple Past
 
Past Perfect
Past Participle
carry
carrying
carried
 
(have) carried
carried
cruise
cruising
cruised
 
(have) cruised
cruised
dance
dancing
danced
 
(have) danced
danced
drop
dropping
dropped
 
(have) dropped
dropped
evolve
evolving
evolved
 
(have) evolved
evolved
jump
jumping
jumped
 
(have) jumped
jumped
picnic
picnicking
picnicked
 
(have) picnicked
picnicked
scream
screaming
screamed
 
(have) screamed
screamed
work
working
worked
 
(have) worked
worked

Irregular Verbs[edit]

Irregular, or strong, verbs have different ways of forming their principal parts. They can be described as belonging to one of five classes

Class 1[edit]

Class 1 verbs have the same form across all three principal parts.

Simple Present
Present Participle
Simple Past
 
Past Perfect
Past Participle
burst
bursting
burst
 
(have) burst
burst
cost
costing
cost
 
(have) cost
cost
cut
cutting
cut
 
(have) cut
cut
hit
hitting
hit
 
(have) hit
hit
hurt
hurting
hurt
 
(have) hurt
hurt
put
putting
put
 
(have) put
put
read
reading
read
 
(have) read
read
set
setting
set
 
(have) set
set
shut
shutting
shut
 
(have) shut
shut

Class 2[edit]

Class 2 verbs have a vowel change in the simple past and past perfect tenses. Note that got is both Class 2 and Class 3, taking an optional -en in the third principal part.

Simple Present
Present Participle
Simple Past
 
Past Perfect
Past Participle
bring
bringing
brought
 
(have) brought
brought
catch
catching
caught
 
(have) caught
caught
fight
fighting
fought
 
(have) fought
fought
flee
fleeing
fled
 
(have) fled
fled
fling
flinging
flung
 
(have) flung
flung
get
getting
got
 
(have) got/gotten
got/gotten
lead
leading
led
 
(have) led
led
lend
lending
lent
 
(have) lent
lent
lose
losing
lost
 
(have) lost
lost
say
saying
said
 
(have) said
said
seek
seeking
sought
 
(have) sought
sought
shine
shining
shone
 
(have) shone
shone
sit
sitting
sat
 
(have) sat
sat
sting
stinging
stung
 
(have) stung
stung
swing
swinging
swung
 
(have) swung
swung
teach
teaching
taught
 
(have) taught
taught
wind
winding
wound
 
(have) wound
wound

Class 3[edit]

Class 3 verbs take a vowel change in the simple past and form the past perfect by adding an -(e)n to the simple past. Note that bear, bite, and shear do not follow this pattern exactly.

Simple Present
Present Participle
Simple Past
 
Past Perfect
Past Participle
bear
bearing
bore
 
(have) borne
borne
beat
beating
beat
 
(have) beaten
beaten
bite
biting
bit
 
(have) bitten
bitten
break
breaking
broke
 
(have) broken
broken
choose
choosing
chose
 
(have) chosen
chosen
freeze
freezing
froze
 
(have) frozen
frozen
shear
shearing
sheared
 
(have) shorn
shorn
speak
speaking
spoke
 
(have) spoken
spoken
steal
stealing
stole
 
(have) stolen
stolen
swear
swearing
swore
 
(have) sworn
sworn
tear
tearing
tore
 
(have) torn
torn
wear
wearing
wore
 
(have) worn
worn

Class 4[edit]

Class 4 vowels change i in the present to a in the simple past and u in the past perfect.

Simple Present
Present Participle
Simple Past
 
Past Perfect
Past Participle
begin
beginning
began
 
(have) begun
begun
drink
drinking
drank
 
(have) drunk
drunk
ring
ringing
rang
 
(have) rung
rung
shrink
shrinking
shrank
 
(have) shrunk
shrunk
sing
singing
sang
 
(have) sung
sung
sink
sinking
sank
 
(have) sunk
sunk
spring
springing
sprang/sprung
 
(have) sprung
sprung
swim
swimming
swam
 
(have) swum
swum

Class 5[edit]

Class 5 verbs take a vowel change in the simple past but form the past perfect from the present.

Simple Present
Present Participle
Simple Past
 
Past Perfect
Past Participle
blow
blowing
blew
 
(have) blown
blown
come
coming
came
 
(have) come
come
do
 
did
 
(have) done
done
draw
drawing
drew
 
(have) drawn
drawn
drive
driving
drove
 
(have) driven
driven
eat
eating
ate
 
(have) eaten
eaten
fall
falling
fell
 
(have) fallen
fallen
give
giving
gave
 
(have) given
given
go
going
went
 
(have) gone
gone
grow
growing
grew
 
(have) grown
grown
know
knowing
knew
 
(have) known
known
ride
riding
rode
 
(have) ridden
ridden
rise
rising
rose
 
(have) risen
risen
run
running
ran
 
(have) run
run
see
seeing
saw
 
(have) seen
seen
shake
shaking
shook
 
(have) shaken
shaken
slay
slaying
slew
 
(have) slain
slain
take
taking
took
 
(have) taken
taken
throw
throwing
threw
 
(have) thrown
thrown
write
writing
wrote
 
(have) written
written

Tenses of Verbs[edit]

A verb takes different forms to show when an action occurs. These forms are called tenses. The table below shows the six basic tenses (the three simple tenses and the three perfect tenses) and the special forms of a verb: the six progressive forms and two emphatic forms. Problems in using the tenses are also included. Note: In the formation of the passive voice, only two progressive forms are included.

Simple Tense[edit]

Simple Present Tense[edit]

The simple present tense encompasses the past, present and future time.
Formation:

Active Passive
-3rd person singular, present form +-s/-es
-other singular/plural forms, use unchanged present form.
-am,is,are + past participle

Uses

  1. Expresses present action or condition
  2. Expresses regularly occurring action or condition
  3. Expresses constant action or condition
  4. Expresses introduction to a quotation
  5. Expresses past historical action or a piece of literature as if happening now to make description more vivid and realistic
  6. Expresses future time when sentence contains adverb or phrase indicating the future
  7. Expresses action or condition as in present perfect tense

Simple Past Tense[edit]

The simple past tense indicates that an action terminated in the past.
Formation:

Active Passive
-regular verbs +-d / -ed
-irregular verbs, use past form
-was, were + past participle

Uses

  1. Expresses action or condition that happened at a definite time in the past
  2. Expresses action or condition that began and ended in the past
  3. Expresses polite speech

Simple Future Tense[edit]

Perfect Tense[edit]

Present Perfect[edit]

Past Perfect[edit]

Future Perfect[edit]

Special Forms of a Verb[edit]

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Problems in Using Tenses[edit]

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Improper Shifts in Tense and Form The same tense must be express two or more actions that occur in the same time.

  • A shift in tense within a sentence or between consecutive sentences must be avoided.

Incorrect: I watched television and my brother plays computer last night.
Correct: I watched television and my brother played computer last night.

  • A shift in tense may be necessary to show a logical sequence of actions or the relationship of one action to another. This is considered correct.

Example: The Beatles had performed (past perfect) in small German clubs before they conquered (past) the international scene. By the time our team wins (present) the World Cup, the Ice Age will have returned (future perfect).

Voices of Verbs[edit]

The voice of verbs indicates whether its subject is the performer or the receiver of the action the verb expresses.

  • Active voice shows that the subject is the doer or performer of the action. It is preferred in writing because it is more forceful and direct than the passive voice.
  • Passive voice shows that the subject is the receiver of the action. it is used in the following:
    • to express an action when the doer of the action is unknown.
    • to describe an ongoing experience
    • to avoid giving a direct order or to state a rule.
    • to express action when the doer is not important.

Moods of Verbs[edit]

Mood identifies the manner in which a verb expresses an idea.

The Three Moods of Verbs[edit]

  1. The indicative mood states a fact or asks a question.
  2. The subjunctive mood is used to express:
    • a wish or a condition that is contrary to fact.
    • a command or request after the word that.
  3. The imperative mood gives a command or makes a request. Verbs in this mood are always in the present tense and second person.

Note: The indicative and subjunctive moods have the same forms except for the following:

  • In the third=person singular, the -s is omitted from verbs.
  • The form of the verb to be is always be in the present subjunctive mood.
  • The form of the verb to be is always were in the past subjunctive mood.

Commonly Confused Verbs[edit]

Bring and Take[edit]

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Hang[edit]

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Learn and Teach[edit]

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Let and Leave[edit]

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Lie, Lay and Lie[edit]

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Rise and Raise[edit]

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Sit and Set[edit]

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