English Grammar: Verbs

A Verb is a word that tells or asserts something about a person or thing. it is the most important word in a sentence. A Verb tell what a person or thing does, what is done to a person or thing, what a person or thing is.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

A Transitive Verb is a Verb that denotes an action which passes over from the doer or Subject to an object.

An Intransitive Verb is a Verb that denotes an action which does not pass over to an object, or which expresses a state or being.

Active and Passive Voice

A verb is in the Active Voice when its form shows that the person or thing denoted by the Subject does something. 

A Verb is in the Passive Voice when its form shows that something is done to the person or thing denoted by the Subject.

Mood

Different modes or manners in which a Verb may be used to express an action are called Moods.

There are three Moods in English - Indicative, Imperative, Subjunctive.

Tenses

The Tense of a Verb shows the time of an action or event. Tense of a verb also shows the state of an action referred to.

A Verb may refer to present time, past time, or to future time.

A Verb that refers to present time is said to be in the Present Tense. A Verb that refers to past time is said to be in the Past Tense. A Verb that refers to future time is said to be in the Future Tense.

Present Tense

  1. I love. (Simple Present) 
  2. I am loving. (Present Continuous) 
  3. I have loved. (Present Perfect) 
  4. I have been loving. (Present Perfect Continuous)

Past Tense

  1. I loved. (Simple Past) 
  2. I was loving. (Past Continuous)
  3. 1 had loved. (Past Perfect)
  4. I had been loving. (Past Perfect Continuous)

Future Tense

  1. I shall/will love. (Simple Future)
  2. I shall/will be loving. (Future Continuous)
  3. I shall/will have loved. (Future Perfect)
  4. I shall/will have been loving. (Future Perfect Continuous)

Types of Verbs

English verbs are divided into three groups - Normal Verbs, Non-Continuous Verbs, and Mixed Verbs.

Normal Verbs

Most verbs are "Normal Verbs". These verbs are usually physical actions which you can see somebody doing. These verbs can be used in all tenses.

Non-Continuous Verbs

These verbs are usually things you cannot see somebody doing. These verbs are not used in continuous tenses. The following verbs, on account of their meaning, are not normally used in the continuous form: 

  • Verbs of perception - see, hear, smell, notice, recognize. 
  • Verbs of appearing - appear, look, seem. 
  • Verbs of emotion - want, wish, desire, feel, like, love, hate, hope, refuse, prefer. 
  • Verbs of thinking - think, suppose, believe, agree, consider, trust, remember, forget, know, understand, imagine, mean, mind. 
  • Verbs of possession - have, own, possess, belong to, contain, consist of, be

Mixed Verbs

These verbs have more than one meaning. In a way, each meaning is a unique verb. Some meanings behave like "Non-Continuous Verbs" while other meanings behave like "Normal Verbs". Examples: to appear, to feel, to have, to hear, to look, to see, to weigh.

Present Tense

Simple Present

Form: Verb + s/es in third person

Use #1: To express a habitual or repeated action

Use #2: To express general truths, facts or generalizations

Use #3: To express a future event that is scheduled in near future

Use #4: To express continuation (Now) with Non-Continuous Verbs

Present Continuous

Form: am/is/are + present participle

Use #1: For an action going on at the time of speaking (with normal verbs)

Use #2: For a temporary action (longer actions) which may not be actually happening at the time of speaking.

Use #3: For an action that has already been arranged to take place in the near future

Use #4: Repetition and Irritation with "Always"

Present Perfect

Form: has/have + past participle

Use #1: To express past actions whose time is not given and not definite (unspecified time)

Use #2: To denote an action beginning at some time in the past continuing up to the present moment (Non-Continuous Verbs)

Use #3: To indicate completed activities in the immediate past (with just)

Use #4: To denote that an action has been completed very recently

Present Perfect Continuous

Form: has/have + been + present participle

Use #1: For an action which began at some time in the past and is still continuing

Use #2: For an action that has already taken place but whose effect is still there

The negative is formed by placing "not" after has/have.

Past Tense

Simple Past

Form: Second form of verb; Verb + ed or irregular verbs

Use #1: To indicate an action completed in the past at specified time.

It often occurs with adverbs or adverb phrases of past time. Sometimes this tense is used without an adverb of time. In such cases the time may be either implied or indicated by the context.

Use #2: For duration in past that starts and stops in the past

Use #3: For past habits

Use #4: Past facts or generalizations which are no longer true

No helping verb (was, were, had) is used in the simple past tense. The negative of both regular and irregular verbs that are used in past tense is formed with did not + verb without changing the form of the verb. The Interrogative is formed by changing the position of "did" and placing it before the subject. The main verb does not change its form.

Past Continuous

Form: was/were + present participle

Use #1: To indicate that a longer action in the past was interrupted by a shorter action.

Use #2: To denote an action going on at some specific time in the past.

Use #3: Parallel actions to express the idea that two actions were happening at the same time.

Use #4: Repetition and irritation with "Always" that happened in the past.

Past Perfect

Form: had + past participle; had + third form of verb

Use #1: To describes an action completed before a certain moment in the past.

Use #2: Duration in the past with non-continuous verb to show something started in the past and continued up until another action in the past. 

If two actions happened in the past, it may be necessary to show which action happened earlier than the other. The Past Perfect is mainly used in such situations. The Simple Past is used in one clause and the Past Perfect in the other. Such verbs (action words) which tell us that an action was completed sometime in the past, before another action also in the past, are said to be in the past perfect tense.

In the case of actions/events that were completed first, the past perfect tense (i.e. had + the 3rd form of the verb) is used. In the case of actions/events that were completed later in the past, the simple past tense (i.e. the 2nd form of the verb) is used.

Past Perfect Continuous

Form: had been + present participle

Use #1: For duration of action that began before a certain point in the past and continued up to that time.

The negative is formed by placing "not" after had.

Future Tense

Simple Future

Simple Future has two different forms in English: "will" and "be going to". Although the two forms can sometimes be used interchangeably, they often express two very different meanings.

Form: will + verb ; am/is/are + going to + verb

Use #1: To talk about things which we cannot control. It expresses the future as fact.

Use #2: To talk about what we think or believe will happen in the future (prediction).

Use #3: To do something at the time of speaking.

Use #4: We use the going to form when we have decided to do something before talking about it (to express a plan).

If the action is already decided upon and preparations have been made, you should use the going to form, not the Simple Future Tense. The Simple Future Tense is used for an instant decision.

Future Continuous

Form: will be + present participle

Use #1: To indicate that a longer action in the future will be interrupted by a shorter action.

Use #2: To talk about actions which will be in progress at a specific time in the future.  

Use #3: Parallel actions to express the idea that two actions will be happening at the same time.

Future Perfect

Form: will have + past participle

Use #1: To talk about actions that will be completed by a certain future action or time.

Use #2: For duration of action (non-continuous verb) that will continue up until another action in the future.

Future Perfect Continuous

Form: will have been + present participle

Use #1: For actions which will be in progress over a period of time that will end in the future.

Future in the Past

Form: would + verb ; was/were + going to + verb

Use #1: To express the idea that in the past you thought something would happen in the future. It does not matter if you are correct or not.

Verb: Person and Number

The Verb, like the Personal Pronouns, has three Persons - the First, the Second and the Third.

The Verb like the Noun and the Pronoun, has two Numbers the Singular and the Plural.

The Verb must agree with its Subject in Number and Person; that is, the Verb must be of the same Number and Person as its Subject. Thus, if the Subject is of the Singular Number, First Person, the Verb must be of the Singular Number, First Person.

Participle

A participle is that form of the Verb which partakes of the nature both of a Verb and of an Adjective.

Infinitives

Infinitives are the "to" form of the verb. The infinitive form of "learn" is "to learn." You can also use an infinitive as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence. For example,

  • To learn is important.
  • The most important thing is to learn.
  • He wants to learn.

Form: to + verb

Infinitive is a kind of noun with certain features of the verb, especially that of taking an object (when the verb is Transitive) and adverbial qualifiers. In short, the Infinitive is a Verb-Noun.

Gerunds

A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding "-ing." The gerund form of the verb "read" is "reading". You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence. For example,

  • Reading helps you learn English.
  • Her favorite hobby is reading.
  • I enjoy reading.

Both gerunds and infinitives can be used as the subject or the complement of a sentence. However, as subjects or complements, gerunds usually sound more like normal, spoken English, whereas infinitives sound more abstract. Most of the time, you will use a gerund as the subject or complement of a sentence.

Auxiliaries and Modals

The verbs be (am, is, was, etc.), have and do, when used with ordinary verbs to make tenses, passive forms, questions and negatives, are called auxiliary (helping) verbs or auxiliaries.

The verbs can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must and ought are called modal verbs or modals. They are used before ordinary verbs and express ability, permission, possibility, order, certainty and necessity.

The modals can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must and ought are termed Defective Verbs, because some parts are wanting in them. They have no -s in the third person singular; they have no infinitive and gerund forms.