Friday, April 22, 2011

Basic English the Mikie Metric Way 6


Lesson 6: The different forms of verbs

Most languages use different forms - that is, different spellings or special endings -with their verbs to tell us whether the action took place in the past, is happening right now, is going to take place sometime in the future, happens often, or might not happen at all.  This is true of English.  Also, like other European languages with which we are familiar, many of the most commonly used verbs have the most irregular forms.  You can study several of these irregular verbs in Lesson 11 in the  Learn to Write Englishseries.

This Basic English lesson will explain to you what the verb forms are and when you need to use them.

Regular Verbs:
The infinitive form is made by adding the word "to" to the  Present Tense.  This is the base from which all the other forms are built.  It does not show any particular time for the action.  (Examples: to park, to watch, to call)

The Present Tense is used to talk about something that is taking place now or that takes place on a regular basis.


"They park their car on the street." "Tom watches the football game on television." "We call my mother twice a week." 

In the first two sentences, the action might have taken place just one time or many times - the sentences do not make it clear to us.  Note the difference when we add more words:  "They park their car on the street  when the parking lot is full."  This may have happened once before or many times, but the sentence makes it clear that whenever the parking lot is full, THEY will park on the street.   "Tom watches the football game on television every Sunday."  It is a regular thing for Tom to watch football on Sundays.  He started doing it on past Sundays and will continue doing it on future Sundays.
Present Tense 3rd Person Singular - the form used with HE, SHE, or IT - ends with an ' S '.  Third person means the people or things that you and I are talking about.  (see Basic English Lesson #5) "Mary walks her dog each morning."  "She walks her dog each night, also."  HE sings; IT breaks; the President speaks; the car stops; Mrs. Smith bakes; Gina carries.
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The Past Tense  is used to talk about an action that happened before now, sometime in the past.  The action is finished, completed.  It might have taken place two minutes ago, last week, or a thousand years ago.  The Regular Past Tense is formed by adding -ED to the infinitive form, or by just adding -D if the verb ends with an E (bake + ed = baked). Irregular Past Tense forms are ... well ... Irregular


"They parked their car on the street this time."  The action is over.....the car is now located on the street. 
"Tom watched the football game on television last Sunday."  The action is over.  The watching started last Sunday and ended last Sunday. 
"We called my mother twice a week."  This tells us that the twice-a-week calls started sometime in the past and ended in the past.  We no longer call my mother twice a week.  Maybe we call her three times a week now, or maybe we don't call at all.  If we said, "We called my mother twice a week while she was sick."  this would make it easier to understand that the two calls a week were for a special purpose - to check up on her while she was sick, and since she is well now, we no longer need to call so often.
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The Present Participle of a verb is made by adding -ING to the infinitive form.  When used with  AM, IS, or  ARE, it  forms the Present Progressive Tense and talks about an action or state that is going on RIGHT NOW!  It started sometime in the past and is still going on.  The Present Participle used with WAS or WERE forms the Past Progressive Tense and is used for actions that began in the past, went on for a period of time, then ended in the past.


"I am writing this lesson."  The action is taking place right now and is not finished yet."I was writing this lesson."  I began writing sometime in the past, but then I either finished it or got tired of writing, so I stopped working on it.  The writing started, went on for a while, then ended - all in the past.
"They are parking their car in our driveway."  It is happening right now."They were parking their car in our driveway."  This began in the past and maybe happened several times, but then for some reason, they stopped parking their car there.  Could it be because we called the police?
"He is waiting for a bus."  The bus has not arrived yet, so he is STILL waiting."He was waiting for the bus."  He started waiting a while ago, but he is not waiting now.  Maybe the bus came, or maybe he got tired of waiting.
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The Past Participle  of a verb must also be used with a helping verb.  The Past Participle with HAVE or HAS forms the Present Perfect Tense.  The Past Participle used with HAD forms the Past Perfect Tense.  It will be the helping verb which tells us when the action takes or took place.


"They have parked their car on the street."  This usually refers to a single action that took place in the past, with the idea that the car is still there.  "They have parked their car on the street ten times."  It still refers to an action that took place in the past, but might happen again.
"He has waited for the bus for an hour."  He began waiting in the past and is still waiting.
"We had called my mother several times."  The calling started in the past, ended in the past, and is over now.
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The Future Tense  of a verb is made from the Present Tense form plus auxiliary verbs such as WILL and SHALL.  Often,  the phrase IS GOING plus the Infinitive Form of a verb is used to talk about the future, although it is not a true future tense.  SHALL is used with I or WE (first person) subjects; WILL is used with YOU, HE and THEY subjects (second and third person).  The Future Tense  is used to talk about an action that has not happened yet, but that is expected to happen sometime in the future.  The future can be in a few minutes, tomorrow or next year.


"They will park their car on the street."  Parking their car on the street is an action THEY plan to take.
" We shall wait ten minutes more."  This puts a definite limit on the length of time WE expect to wait.
"He is going to call his mother tomorrow."  This tells us what action HE is planning to do in the future.

There are several other combination verb forms, each with its own special purpose and an official grammar title, but we will not cover them in this lesson.  The main purpose for explaining what we have so far is to help you understand a chart like the one below, or to help you understand a listing for a verb in a dictionary where the principle parts of the verb are often given before the definition.  In fact, this is a good reason to look up a verb in a good dictionary - to find out if the verb is irregular and if so, what the irregular forms are.

Infinitive (base) formPresent tense (with 3rd person singular)Past tensePresent ParticiplePast Participle
to parkpark, parks (-s)parked  (-ed)parking  (-ing)parked  (-ed)
to singsing, sings  (-s)sangsinging (-ing)sung
to carrycarry, carries  (-ies)carried (-ied)carrying  (-ing)carried  (-ied)
to writewrite, writes  (-s)wrotewriting (drop e before -ing)written
to taketake, takes  (-s)tooktaking (drop e before -ing)taken
to beam, is (singular), are(plural)was (3rd person singular), werebeing (-ing)been
to setset, sets  (-s)setsetting  (double T, add -ing)set
to thinkthink, thinks  (-s)thoughtthinking (-ing)thought
to drinkdrink, drinks (-s)drankdrinking (-ing)drunk
to havehave, hashadhaving (drop E before -ing)had

NOTE: A dictionary will list regular endings in parentheses ( ) as we have in the chart above (-s), (-ed), (-ing) if it lists them at all.  If the form is irregular or includes spelling changes (took, carried), they will be written in full.  Some of the spelling changes from the list above will be illustrated or explained in theSpelling Lessons on this site.

Progressive and Perfect Verb Tenses

A reminder: a tense is a form of the verb that shows the time of the action.
For example, "ate" is a form of the verb "eat", and it shows the action happened in the past.
"Thinks" is a form of the verb "think", and it shows the action happens in the present.
  There are three Simple Tenses. We call them Simple because they merely express the time of the action.
  These are:

Simple Past ("Lisa worked yesterday.")

Simple Present ("Lisa works every day.")

Simple Future ("Lisa will work next week.")
All these verbs simply state the time of the action (past, present or future).  So far, so good. Here is where things get a little more interesting.
  When using the English language you can choose to communicate additional data about the action. Specifically, is the action ongoing or finished?  
In the sentence "I am eating lunch right now", the verb indicates the action is still ongoing � it continues. I am in the middle of having lunch.
  In the sentence "I have eaten lunch already", the verb indicates the action is finished. I am no longer eating lunch.  Now let's dive a little deeper.

Progressive (Continuous) Tenses
  "Progressive" means "ongoing, continuing". The action is in progress.  We usually use the Progressive Tenses when we want to emphasis the fact that the action continues.

Present Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action is in progress.
  I am waiting for the bus right now. (The action is in progress at this moment.)
am writing my third book. (The action is in progress these days.)

Past Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action was in progress.
  Yesterday at five o'clock I was waiting for the bus. (The action was in progress yesterday at five o'clock.)
  I was writing my third book the entire summer. (The action was in progress last summer.)

Future Progressive is a form of the verb that shows the action will be in progress.
  Tomorrow at nine o'clock I will be waiting for the bus. (The action will be in progress tomorrow at nine o'clock.)
  I will be writing my third book the following winter. (The action will be in progress next winter.)

Perfect Tenses
"Perfect" means "complete, finished". The action is finished.  We usually use the Perfect Tenses when we want to emphasis the fact that the action is complete.

Present Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action is finished already.
  I have written my homework. (The action is already complete. My homework is finished.)
  I have watched this movie already. (The action is already complete. I have the experience of watching this movie.)

Past Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action was finished already.
  I had written my homework before she came. (The action was already complete when she arrived.)
  I had watched that movie before she offered to rent it. (I watched the movie, and later she offered to rent it. At that point I already had the experience of watching it.)

Future Perfect is a form of the verb that shows the action will be finished.
  By the time she comes, I will have written my homework. (The action will be complete before she arrives.)
  We will have watched that movie by midnight. (We will watch the movie, and we will finish watching it before midnight.)

Why do you need to worry about all the different forms?  The best reason is so you can be fairly sure that the person you are writing to will understand exactly what you mean.  If you use the wrong verb form, the reader of your words will not know for sure if something happened but is finished now, or if it is still going on, or if you are not positive that it happened at all.  It is all part of CLEAR, ACCURATE COMMUNICATION.  

OTE: It is more important to use the correct verb forms and tenses than it is to know all the grammar terms.  Please do not be discouraged by terms such as Present Progressive and Past Perfect.  Study the examples given in this lesson.  Read English every time you have the chance.  Try to decide what the verbs are telling you.  Ask questions if you do not understand something.

Exercise A:  Circle the verbs in the following sentences.  Above the verbs, write the tense or form.  Use a good English dictionary or text book to find verbs that are not in the list above.  Examples of tenses or forms:  INFINITIVE = inf., PRESENT = pres.,  PAST = past,  PRESENT PARTICIPLE = pres. part., PAST PARTICIPLE = past part., FUTURE = fut.; PRESENT PROGRESSIVE = pres. prog.; PAST PROGRESSIVE = past prog.; PRESENT PERFECT = pres. perf.; PAST PERFECT = past perf. 

1.  Mr. Jones had gone to the store to buy a loaf of bread.
2. I listen to the radio while I do my homework.
3. Steve was driving his new car to work.
4. Everybody in the office was working when the lights went out.
5. Sally said she will write me a letter when she gets to Miami.
6. Have you seen the new television show?
7. Many people drink coffee for breakfast, but others prefer to drink tea.
8. Anna, who sang in the musical stage play, had also sung in her church choir.
9. He is sick now, but he will  be better soon.
10. It has been difficult to learn English without a teacher, but you will succeed someday.
Exercise B:  For practice and for your own information.  Find an English-language newspaper, magazine or book and pick out 10 verbs.  Write those verbs in the correct column in the chart below, then fill in all the principle forms of each verb.  Use a dictionary.  If you need help, ask someone where you live or E-mail us.

Example:  From the instructions for Exercise B, we will choose USE.  USE is in the Present Tense, so that is where we will write it in the chart.  Then we would add all the other forms of USE - Infinitive (TO USE),  Past (USED), Present Participle (USING), and Past Participle (USED).

InfinitivePresentPastPresent ParticiplePast Participle

Answers to Exercise A, Lesson 6:
1.   gone (past participle); had gone (past perfect tense);  to buy (infinitive)
2.  listen (present);  do (present)
3.  driving (present participle); was driving (past progressive tense)
4. working (present participle;  was working (past perfect tense)
5. said (past); will write (future); gets (present, third person singular)
6. seen (past participle); have seen (present perfect tense)
7. drink (present); prefer (present); to drink (infinitive)
8. sang (past); sung (past participle); had sung (past perfect tense)
9. is (present, third person singular); will be (future)
10. been (past participle; has been (present perfect); will succeed (future)


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