Verbs


A verb is a doing or action word. A verb can have three tenses: present, past and future.

Present, past and future

A verb can have three tenses:

Present

Past

Future

Today

Yesterday

Tomorrow

Verb

I cook a stir-fry for dinner.

Verb + ed (regular)

I cooked a stir-fry for dinner.

Will/shall + verb

I shall cook a stir-fry for dinner.

Auxiliary verbs

Auxiliary verbs are helping verbs and always come before a verb.

Examples of common auxiliary verbs:

  • am
  • are
  • be
  • can
  • could
  • had
  • has
  • have
  • may
  • might
  • must
  • shall
  • should
  • was
  • were
  • is
  • will
  • would.

Example of an auxiliary verb in a sentence:

  • We should put the wet clothes in the dryer.
  • He must go to the principal immediately.

A common error when using should or could in the past tense is that students often say should of instead of should have or could of instead of could have.

This also applies to the negative:

  • We shouldn’t have gone in the water.
  • We couldn’t have seen the bus.

Finite verbs

Finite verbs can stand on their own and do not need an auxiliary verb.

  • We argue
  • They play
  • We sit.

Infinitive verbs

When the word 'to' comes before a verb it is known as the infinitive. In general the infinitive should not be split, for example:

  • I am going to definitely eat breakfast today (incorrect).
  • I am definitely going to eat breakfast today (correct).

Verb group

A verb group is a group of words built around a verb.

  • He huffed and puffed.
  • They were going to climb the fence.
  • We tried to establish whether she had been a witness to the crime.
  • I must have been thinking about lunch because suddenly I felt hungry.
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