The Four Forms of the Verb

For many people, even native speakers, the grammar English verb is a complex and difficult one to master. However, there are some easy truths that once learned, can clear up the mystery a bit and also make the whole language a little easier to understand. For example, there always are four basic English verb tenses: base form, past form, present participle, and past participle.

The base form of an English verb is always taken from the root verb itself, and can be combined with any number of auxiliaries. For example, the verb “to jump” has the base form “I jump,” and can also be “I can jump” or “I will jump.” Without an auxiliary, the base form represents something happening now, in the present time.

The past form of a verb typically (though by no means always) ends in -ed. So “to jump” becomes “I jumped,” signifying that, the the past, I jumped. There are some unique English verb conjugations, such as “to run” becomes “ran” and “to blow” becomes “blown.” These are but some of the many examples of the irregular English verb.

The present participle of a verb, combined with a “to be” verb (am, are, were, should be, etc.), expresses continuing action and is always the base for of the verb with -ing added to it. “I am running” is an example.

The past participle usually looks exactly like the past form of a verb, but has more applications. When combined with a form of “to have,” the past participle expresses a completed action; “I have jumped already.” When combined with a “to be” auxiliary, the verb expresses passive voice: “The card was flipped,” “The ball was thrown.”

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