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
In English grammar, as you may already know, a verb has a number of attributes:
- Person (first, second, third)
- Number (singular, plural)
- Tense (present, past, future, present perfect, past perfect, future perfect)
- Voice (active, passive)
- Mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive)
- 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.
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:
|wake||woke (waked)||woken (waked)|
Present Tense Forms
The present tense has three different forms. Each form has a specific use.
- Simple present tense is used for facts, universal truths, routines, habits, and repeating actions. Example: I see him every day.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Indicative mood is used for statements and questions.
- 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.
- Imperative mood is used for commands and polite requests. The subject of the sentence is understood to be “you”.
- I know him. He is a rich man.
- If he were a rich man, she would marry him.
- Marry him! He’s rich now!
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
- Conjugate the verb “to buy” in first person, singular, all tenses.
I _____, I _____, I _____, I _____, I _____, I _____
- List the three moods and explain when each mood is used.
- Explain the difference between a regular verb and an irregular verb.
- List the two voices and explain the difference between them.
- Which person-number combination is different than all the other person-number combinations?
- For the verb “to fall”, what three verb forms “define” this verb in terms of how to form all six tenses of it?
- What type of verb is the verb “to be”? Explain what this type of verb is used for.
- 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 _____
- List the three forms of the present tense and explain when each is used.
- Identify one verb from the irregular verbs listed above whose present, past, and past participle forms are all identical.