Forms of Main Verbs
Main verbs (except the verb "be") have 3, 4 or 5 forms. The verb "be" has 8 forms. In the table below, the # column shows the actual number of forms for the given verb.
We use these forms to make all the tenses and other verb structures, in all moods, aspects and voices.
|present participle||3rd person singular present simple||#|
|past participle||present participle||present simple
In the above examples:
- cut has 3 forms: cut, cutting, cuts
- work has 4 forms: work, worked, working, works
- sing has 5 forms: sing, sang, sung, singing, sings
- be has 8 forms: be, was, were, been, being, am, is, are
Note that in dictionaries the headword for any given verb entry is always in the base form.
There are two possibilities for the infinitive:
- base form (the "bare infinitive")
- to + base form (the "to-infinitive")
Note that the "to" is NOT a preposition. It is an "infinity marker" or "particle".
At school, students often learn by heart the base, past simple and past participle (sometimes called V1, V2, V3, meaning Verb 1, Verb 2, Verb 3) for irregular verbs. They may spend many hours chanting: sing, sang, sung; go, went, gone; have, had, had; etc. They do not learn these for regular verbs for one very simple reason - the past simple and past participle are always the same: they are formed by adding "-ed" to the base.
They do not learn the present participle and 3rd person singular present simple for regular or irregular verbs for another very simple reason - they never change. The present participle is always made by adding "-ing" to the base, and the 3rd person singular present simple is always made by adding "s" to the base (though there are some variations in spelling).
Note that "have", "do" and "be" also function as helping or auxiliary verbs, with exactly the same forms.
These example sentences use main verbs in different forms.
Base - Infinitive
- She helped him work on his homework.
- We heard them sing their national anthem.
- I want to have a drink.
- To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Base - Imperative
- Work well!
- Make this.
- Have a nice day.
- Be quiet!
Base - Present simple
(except 3rd person singular)
- I work in London.
- You sing well.
- They have a lot of money.
Base - After modal auxiliary verbs
- I can work tomorrow.
- You must sing louder.
- They might do it.
- You could be right.
- I worked yesterday.
- She cut his hair last week.
- They had a good time.
- They were surprised, but I was not.
- I have worked here for five years.
- He needs a folder made of plastic.
- It is done like this.
- I have never been so happy.
- I am working.
- Singing well is not easy.
- Having finished, he went home.
- You are being silly!
3rd person singular present simple
- He works in London.
- She sings well.
- She has a lot of money.
- It is Vietnamese.