Grammar – Understanding English Verb Forms

by Melanie on January 16, 2012

(Photo by calumray)

English verb forms are one of the easiest things to learn. They are so simple! Unlike other languages, there aren’t long lists of different conjugations that must be memorized. In English, there are just a few irregular verbs that need to be memorized. Here is a summary of the different verb forms in English.

 

1. Base/Bare Form

This is the form of the verb you’ll find in the dictionary. The base form is used as the base of almost every other verb form.

talk
run
play
sing

 

The base form is also used to form the infinitive. Simply add ‘to’:

I want to talk to you.

 

2. Third-person Singular

For most verbs, you simply add -s (or -es) to the verb:

She says to call her tomorrow.
He finishes work late.
The movie starts at 7 p.m.

 

There are a handful of verbs that have an irregular 3rd person singular form:

He does karate. (do)
She has a lot of friends. (have)
It is 6:00 p.m. (be)

 

3. Past Simple Tense

For regular verbs, the past simple is formed by adding -ed to the base form of the verb:

I talked to him yesterday.
My mother called me last week.

 

Be careful! The -ed ending is not always pronounced as a separate syllable. Check your pronunciation of these words.

 

For irregular verbs, the past simple form needs to be memorized:

I bought a house. (buy)
My dad gave me money. (give)
He spoke to his wife. (speak)

For more past simple verb forms, please read this list.

 

4. -ing

This is the verb form that confuses a lot of English learners!
A gerund is a verb that acts like a noun. It is formed by adding -ing to the verb:

I love skiing.
Reading is fun.

 

The present participle is also formed by adding -ing to the verb, but it has different uses than a gerund:

a. The present participle is used in the continuous tenses
I am reading a new book.

b. The present participle can be used as an adjective
That movie was really interesting.

 

5. Past Participle

There are different forms of the past participle. For regular verbs, the past participle is formed by adding -ed to the verb. It is the same as the past simple form:

I have decided to go back to school.
She cleaned the house.

For some irregular verbs, the past participle is the same as the past simple form:

I found my wallet. (find – past simple)
I have found my wallet. (find – past participle)
I heard the news about Amy. (hear – past simple)
I have heard the news about Amy. (hear – past participle)

Other verbs in this category:
have (had)
say (said)
teach (taught)
tell (told)
understand (understood)
win (won)
(For an explanation of when to use the past simple and present perfect, see my blog posts on the present perfect.)

 

For other irregular verbs, the past simple form and the past participle are different:

We have sung that song many times. (sing)
She has chosen a new home. (choose)

Other verbs in this category:
be (was/were, been)
begin (began, begun)
choose (chose, chosen)
drink (drank, drunk)
do (did, done)
eat (ate, eaten)
fly (flew, flown)
get (got, gotten* [American])
give (gave, given)
go (went, gone)
know (knew, known)
ride (rode, ridden)
see (saw, seen)
sing (sang, sung)
speak (spoke, spoken)
swim (swam, swum)
take (took, taken)
wear (wore, worn)
write (wrote, written)
For more past participle forms, please read this list.

 

There are different uses of the past participle:

a. The past participle is used in the perfect tenses:

He has been to Paris many times.
When I got to the train station, I realized I had forgotten my lunch.

b. The past participle is also used in certain sentence structures like the third conditional:

We would have gone out last night if we hadn’t been so tired.

Some past participles can also be used as an adjective:

I am so bored.
He’s not interested.

 

If you struggle with the pronunciation of irregular verbs and their different forms, here is a video that tells you the pronunciation of the base, past simple, and past participle forms of many irregular verbs:

 

Test Your Knowledge!

The Macmillan online dictionary has a great game you can play to test your knowledge of irregular verb forms! Play the ‘Irregular Verb Wheel Game‘!

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ayhan February 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

My main problem in English is about pronunciation and understanding that is spoken. I was searching a solution for these my problems for a long time. I think this web site will help me, thanks for it.

Reply

2 Melanie February 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Hi, Ayhan, & welcome to my blog! It's nice to meet you.

Check out the 'study tips' section. You'll find some tips on how to improve both your pronunciation & listening skills. Also check out the 'pronunciation' and 'listening' sections. You'll find things to practice with!

Take care,
Melanie
= )

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3 Ruben May 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Excellent website colleague.
Congratulations!
Cheers!

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Melanie 4 Melanie May 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Thank you!

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5 Andrew June 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm

There must be a typo here:
5. Past Participle > Other verbs in this category > tell (tell).

Reply

Melanie 6 Melanie June 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Thank you for pointing that out, Andrew! I’m surprised that no one noticed it before you! I have fixed it now.

= )

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7 mevan August 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

I want to know the use and the structures of the PURPOSE SUBJECT in English Language

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8 ALOK SARKAR September 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

I AM VERILY SO HAPPY SEEING THE ANSWER OF MY QUESTION BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN EYEING FOR IT FOR LONG TIME. NONE HAS GIVEN THE EXACT ANSWER. I THANK YOU FOR THIS.
MADAM, COULD YOU PROVIDE ME THE RIGHT PATH WHERE I CAN SOLVE MY ALL QUERIES AND BUILD ME ENGLISH KNOWLEDGE. MAY I HAVE YOU E-MAIL ID?..I SWEAR I WILL NOT DISTURB YOU SANS STUDIES.

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9 sunny September 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Wonderful site and i have browsed ,just the grammar section.Could you please help me with linking verbs and correct pronoun usage?And also could you suggest
a good detailed grammar practice book with key?And yeah i live in India,and i have never been to any other country but after reading about you on this blog,I am gonna save some money and come to Canada to meet u or if u want to visit india ,you are most welcome.Thanks for creating such a helpful blog.bye ,keep smiling as you are in the pic

Reply

Melanie 10 Melanie September 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Hi, Sunny! Thank you so much for your kind words!

At this time I do not have any information on my website about linking verbs and pronouns. Check out these websites:
http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com
http://www.englishclub.com
http://www.englishpage.com

I have an Amazon.com bookstore with my recommendations for both British & American grammar:
http://astore.amazon.com/english0f-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=8

= )

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11 sunny September 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm

thanks for the links ,will ask if any other confusion arises

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12 akhlaq October 16, 2012 at 3:30 am

Thank a lot for updating…..

Reply

13 Manvendra singh October 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Hi mam,
goodevenung, i am manvendra singh from delhi(India), your website is very nice, one question i would like to ask you, how to imroove fluency in english…

thanks
Manvendra singh

Reply

14 Ahmed November 3, 2012 at 9:22 am

Great Site
Thanks

Reply

15 Thilini December 31, 2012 at 1:31 am

Hi Melani, I am a IELTS student.This website is helps me to improve my language skill. I’ve got some question to clarify from you. when we speak English how should we memorized all these grammar points?If i used incorrect grammar how am i identify that?

Thank you.

Reply

Melanie 16 Melanie January 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Hi, Thilini!

You will need to have a strong knowledge of grammar for the IELTS. You need to know these verb forms as they are the basis of English grammar.

If you would like to improve your grammar, I strongly suggest hiring a private tutor. Do you live near a city where you can find a private tutor?

Here are some online IELTS websites that may help you with your studies:
http://www.ielts.org/
http://www.englishryan.com/
http://www.youtube.com/EnglishRyan
http://www.engvid.com/english-exams/ielts/
http://www.macmillanenglish.com/Course.aspx?id=28192
http://www.macmillanpracticeonline.com/section.asp?catid=170

Good luck to you!
Melanie
= )

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17 Geovanni May 16, 2013 at 4:17 pm

hi, how are you?? thank´s for show me how to said the words jejeje i really want to learn more english…. i´m from Mexico, i would like to speak with you Melani. n.n Really thank you!!

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18 Thipan June 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

you are the best,thank you so much.

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19 Sourav Mukherjee August 29, 2013 at 6:52 am

It’s really very nice. we can learn more things from this website. Thank you

Reply

20 Lora Artiola September 22, 2013 at 9:00 am

Hi Melanie, im very keen to improve my English specially my grammar and pronunciation. Do you offer one on one online tutorial?

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21 .ae September 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm

hello teacher…Some words that look like
present participles are actually
prepositions or regular adjectives.
For example, while loved, mitigated,
rewarding, and fulfilling are
participles.but i have a problem in understanding of these participles in sentences.please give example of sentences in which these participles are used..and explain also thats meaning..

Reply

Melanie 22 Melanie September 25, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Hello,

You are correct that present participles can be used as adjectives:
boring
interesting
exciting

Can you give me an example sentence where you saw a present participle as an adjective and you didn’t understand it?

Adjectives that end in -ing usually describe something or someone:
“He is an interesting person.”
“She has a very exciting life.”
“My job is very rewarding.”

= )

Reply

23 .ae September 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm

thank you very much teacher..I got it.teacher please use these participle “while loved, mitigated” in any sentence and give me explain what it mean when it is used in sentences as participle not as
adjective.if you give me explain,i will be greatful to you.

Reply

Melanie 24 Melanie September 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Hello ae,

I have no idea how to use the phrase “while loved, mitigated” in a sentence. I don’t know what that phrase means! Where did you see the phrase “while loved, mitigated”?

Reply

25 .ae September 26, 2013 at 9:15 am

teacher actully i have main problem in above question in “while loved” because of the word “while” used with loved. So i could not understand how to use it and what its mean when it is used in sentences as participle.

Reply

Melanie 26 Melanie September 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hello ae,

What is the actual sentence where you read ‘while loved’? It’s easier to explain in context.

It could mean, “While people really love this item, ….”

= )

Reply

27 M.T Raza October 3, 2013 at 4:13 am

Please be kind enough to help me how to identify parts of speech of a sentence.

Thank you,
Raza

Reply

28 Marie March 22, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Hello Melanie,

I am a native french speaker, I have been learning English for so many years but my English is still very broken, It is hard on me, and my career, I will like to make it right, I would like to sound professional. I don’t know if you can help to reach my goal. I am very smart but so time because of my English, I am not able to present my idea. I need your help please…

Marie

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