Verbs are action words. They can describe an action (swim), an event (snow), a situation (be) or a change (become). The infinitive is the basic form of a verb and is often, but not always, preceded by to. There are 4 other forms of English verbs: simple present, simple past, past participle and present participle or -ing form. We also have to pay attention to the different types of verbs in English grammar, as they function differently. Auxiliary verbs, modal verbs, infinitives and gerunds, phrasal verbs, the passive voice and the imperative and subjunctive mood are all explained in the following pages.
Click on one of the links below for a detailed lesson about verbs in English grammar. At the end of each page, there are exercises so you can test your progress and check your understanding of English verbs.
The auxiliary verbs, also helping verbs, are be, do, have, and will. They are used to form compound tenses or the passive voice.
- I do not know if he is sleeping.
The modal verbs are can, may, must, need not, shall/should/ought to. They indicate things like ability, permission and obligation.
- I cannot dance but I ought to learn it.
Verb patterns in English grammar tell us that certain words are followed by either an infinitive for a gerund. Here, you will find a list of the most common words that are used with the infinitive or the gerund.
- He was busy working in the garden and did not let anyone help him.
There are three kinds of participles in English: present participle, past participle and perfect participle. We often use them as adjectives, but also in participle clauses.
- Having been interested in seeing interesting places, I travelled a lot.
Phrasal verbs are verbs that are used together with a preposition or an adverb as a single unit.
- I get up at seven every morning.
We use the passive to emphasise an action. Who or what performed the action is unimportant, unknown, or assumed to be general knowledge.
- The letter was written (by Anne).
We use the imperative for commands and orders to address one person or several people directly.
- Stop! Don’t go!
We use the subjunctive in certain phrases and idioms. The verb is used in the basic form, even in the third person singular.
- She demands that he be heard.