Verbs

Introduction

Verbs are critically important in English because they either express action or describe something’s state of being (state of existence). Some action verbs are hit, see, run, jump, speak, and block. State of being verbs include all forms of the verb “to be”. Examples usages describing state of being are: He is tall. She is dead. They are happy. In these cases, no “action” is taking place. These verbs are just describing something’s current state of being or existence.

Types of Verb

Verbs are classified into two types:

  • Linking (or state of being) verbs
  • Action verbs

Verb Attributes

In English grammar, as you may already know, a verb has a number of attributes:

  1. Person (first, second, third)
  2. Number (singular, plural)
  3. Tense (present, past, future, present perfect, past perfect, future perfect)
  4. Voice (active, passive)
  5. Mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive)
  6. Other verb forms (infinitive, bare infinitive, present participle, past participle, gerund)

Verb Person and Number

The person (first, second, third) and number (singular, plural) of a verb in the present tense are defined as follows:

PERSON SINGULAR PLURAL

First I see We see (verb “to see”)
Second You see You see
Third He/she/it sees They see

First I am We are (verb “to be”)
Second You are You see
Third He/she/it is They see

As you can see above, THIRD PERSON SINGULAR always ends in an ‘s’, which is different than the other person/number forms. This is just a quirk of English verbs.

Verb Tenses

In English, a verb is “defined” by listing its three main parts:

  • the simple present tense
  • the simple past tense
  • the past participle

From these three verb parts, all six verb tenses can be formed as follows:
(to see: see/saw/seen)

TENSE VERB FORM
Present see (uses simple present tense form)
Past saw (uses simple past tense form)
Future will see (uses simple present tense form)

Present Perfect have seen (uses past participle form)
Past Perfect had seen
Future Perfect will have seen

Regular and Irregular Verbs

Verbs are sometimes described as regular or irregular in regards to how their past and past participle forms are created.

Regular verbs have an “-ed” ending added to the root verb for both the simple past and past participle. Irregular verbs do not follow this pattern. Instead they have irregular forms with no specific pattern, so the student must simply memorize the past and past participle forms of irregular verbs. Following is a list of some irregular verbs:

Present Past Past Participle
be was, were been
become became become
begin began begun
blow blew blown
break broke broken
bring brought brought
build built built
burst burst burst
buy bought bought
catch caught caught
choose chose chosen
come came come
cut cut cut
deal dealt dealt
do did done
drink drank drunk
drive drove driven
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
feed fed fed
feel felt felt
fight fought fought
find found found
fly flew flown
forbid forbade forbidden
forget forgot forgotten
forgive forgave forgiven
freeze froze frozen
get got gotten
give gave given
go went gone
grow grew grown
have had had
hear heard heard
hide hid hidden
hold held held
hurt hurt hurt
keep kept kept
know knew known
lay laid laid
lead led led
leave left left
let let let
lie lay lain
lose lost lost
make made made
meet met met
pay paid paid
quit quit quit
read read read
ride rode ridden
run ran run
say said said
see saw seen
seek sought sought
sell sold sold
send sent sent
shake shook shaken
shine shone shone
sing sang sung
sit sat sat
sleep slept slept
speak spoke spoken
spend spent spent
spring sprang sprung
stand stood stood
steal stole stolen
swim swam swum
swing swung swung
take took taken
teach taught taught
tear tore torn
tell told told
think thought thought
throw threw thrown
understand understood understood
wake woke (waked) woken (waked)
wear wore worn
win won won
write wrote written

Present Tense Forms

The present tense has three different forms. Each form has a specific use.

  1. Simple present tense is used for facts, universal truths, routines, habits, and repeating actions. Example: I see him every day.
  2. Continuous present tense is used to express action in progress. It is also sometimes used to express future action. This tense is also sometimes called progressive tense. Examples: He is running right now. He is running in tomorrow’s race.
  3. Emphatic present tense is used to emphasize the verb to assert a condition that may have been contraindicated. It is also required when the verb is expressed in negative terms with the adverb “not”. Examples: I love you. No, you don’t. I do love you. No, you do not love me.

More on Past Tense

For a lesson on past tense and how to pronounce the “-ed” sound at the end of regular verbs in the past tense, go here.

Voice of a Verb

A verb can be in active or passive voice. In active voice, the subject is the doer of the verb action. In passive voice, the subject is the receiver of the verb action. The passive voice is formed from the verb “to be” + the verb’s past participle.

VOICE VERB

Active He sees Joe.
Passive Joe is seen by him.

Active The blow crippled him.
Passive He was crippled by the blow.

Mood of a Verb

A verb can have one of three moods:

  1. Indicative mood is used for statements and questions.
  2. Subjunctive mood is used to express unreal, hypothetical, or unlikely situations. This mood always uses the plural form of the verb, regardless of the subject being singular or plural. “Could” and “would” are often used with this mood.
  3. Imperative mood is used for commands and polite requests. The subject of the sentence is understood to be “you”.

Examples

  1. I know him. He is a rich man.
  2. If he were a rich man, she would marry him.
  3. Marry him! He’s rich now!

Sense Verbs

Look, seem, feel, sound, taste, and smell are called “sense” verbs, after the five senses (see, touch, hear, taste, smell). When used to describe the subject, they are followed by adjectives. Here are some examples:

  • You look angry.
  • Her perfume smells nice.
  • I feel tired.

To describe the subject using a noun, these sense verbs are using with “like”, as follows:

  • She looks like a cat.
  • This shampoo smells like coconut.
  • It feels like an oven in this room!

Conjugation of a Verb

To conjugate a verb means to list its verb forms in all persons, numbers, and tenses. Here is an example of the conjugation of the irregular verb “to eat”.

Present: I eat / you eat / he eats / we eat / you eat / they eat

Past: I ate / you ate / he ate / we ate / you ate / they ate

Future: I will eat / you will eat / he will eat / we will eat / you will eat / they will eat

Pres Perf: I have eaten / you have eaten / he has eaten / we have eaten / you have eaten / they have eaten

Past Perf: I had eaten / you had eaten / he had eaten / we had eaten / you had eaten /
they had eaten

Future Perf: I will have eaten / you will have eaten / he will have eaten / we will have eaten /
you will have eaten / they will have eaten

Self-Assessment

Instructions:

  1. Conjugate the verb “to buy” in first person, singular, all tenses.
    I _____, I _____, I _____, I _____, I _____, I _____
  2. List the three moods and explain when each mood is used.
  3. Explain the difference between a regular verb and an irregular verb.
  4. List the two voices and explain the difference between them.
  5. Which person-number combination is different than all the other person-number combinations?
  6. For the verb “to fall”, what three verb forms “define” this verb in terms of how to form all six tenses of it?
  7. What type of verb is the verb “to be”? Explain what this type of verb is used for.
  8. Conjugate the verb “to be” in third person, singular, all tenses.
    (“to be”: am/are/is // was/were // been)
    He _____, He _____, He _____, He _____, He _____, He _____
  9. List the three forms of the present tense and explain when each is used.
  10. Identify one verb from the irregular verbs listed above whose present, past, and past participle forms are all identical.

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