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Verb Forms—What Are They?

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Do you know that all verbs (except “to be”) have five different forms? We’ll briefly explain each one and provide examples.

Looking for a list of verb forms? We've got you covered, just keep reading.
Are you familiar with the different verb forms?
Verb Forms
  • All English verbs (except to be) have five forms: base, past tense, past participle, present participle, and third-person singular.
  • The way these forms are constructed (specifically past tense and past participle) depends on whether the verb is regular or irregular; regular verbs follow typical patterns, while irregular verbs do not.
    • ○ Base (Regular): (To) laugh
      ○ Past tense: Laughed
      ○ Past Participle: Laughed
      ○ Present Participle: Laughing
      ○ Third-Person Singular: Laughs

What Is a Verb Form?

Just in case you need a reminder, verbs are a part of speech that shows action or state of being.

I sell seashells by the seashore.
I am a seashell seller.
(State of being)

All verbs (except to be) have five different forms. When to use these different forms depends on the subject and context of the sentence. Below, we’ll elaborate on the five verb forms and provide examples.

What Are the Five Verb Forms?

The five verb forms are:

1. Base (Infinitive)

The base form of a verb (also known as root form) is the verb as is—with no changes or conjugations. In other words, no suffixes have been added to it.

Examples of verbs in their base form include: run, enjoy, talk, giggle, hang, love, jump, clap, cuddle, scream, watch, travel, cough, sing, and many more.

I run five miles every day.

The base form is the major ingredient that’s needed to create all other forms. However, whether it is altered or not to create other forms (past tense and past participle) depends on if the verb is regular or irregular. We’ll explain below.

2. Past Tense

The simple past tense indicates that an action occurred in the past. When a verb is regular, all you have to do to conjugate it to the simple past tense is add a “–d” or “–ed.”

Lizzie adored her puppy.
He jumped on the bed.

But when a verb is irregular, the simple past tense form doesn’t follow these patterns. Examples of irregular simple past tense verbs are:

  • know → knew
  • ring → rang
  • see → saw
  • give → gave
  • drive → drive
Stefano rang the doorbell.

3. Past Participle

The past participle can be found in perfect tenses and in passive constructions.

When a verb is regular, the past tense form and past participle are identical—all you have to do is add “–d” or “–ed.” Consider the verb clean. Both the past tense and past participle are cleaned.

I cleaned the bathroom.
I have cleaned the bathroom.

As with past tense, irregular verbs do not follow these patterns. Some examples of irregular past participles are chosen, shaken, spoken, torn, and fallen.

  • choose → chose → chosen
  • shake → shook → shaken
  • speak → spoke → spoken
  • tear → tore → torn
  • fall → fell → fallen
Caesar has chosen not to go back to school.

Aside from helping create a perfect verb tense, past participles (as well as present participles) can also help form a participial phrase, which is when the participle form of a verb acts like an adjective in a sentence.

Having walked all day long, Robert found himself out of breath.

Keep in mind: past participles are essential when forming the passive voice.

4. Present Participle

The present participle (or gerund)  form of a verb is constructed by adding “–ing” to the base verb. For instance, the present participle of stand is standing.

The present participle form is used in the past, present, and future progressive tenses to indicate that something is happening (or has happened) over a period of time.

We are standing by the door.

Of course, there are some rare exceptions to this rule of creating a present participle. Take die as an example. Its present participle form is dying.

5. Third-Person Singular

To create the third-person singular form (sometimes known as “–s” form), simply add “–s,” “–es,” or “-ies” to the base verb. As the name suggests, this verb form accompanies all third-person singular nouns and pronouns (like she, he, and it).

→ She orders a large coffee.
→ He wishes he could travel abroad.
→ It denies anyone the possibility of leaving early.

Keep in mind that this formula doesn’t apply to the verbs (to) be and (to) have.

How do you know which suffix to add to a third-person singular form?
  • Verbs that end in “–ch”, “–s”, “–sh”, “–x”, or “–z” get an “–es” added to it
    (watches, presses, smashes, fixes, buzzes).
  • For verbs that end in a consonant + “y”, remove the “y” and add “–ies”
    (cries, complies, defies, hurries, testifies).

Understanding the Five Verb Forms

This is a lot to remember, regardless if you’re a native speaker or an English language learner. Luckily, LanguageTool ensures that you are using the correct verb form (and proper suffix). Additionally, LanguageTool’s advanced, multilingual editor can correct various types of mistakes and can even rephrase sentences to better suit the style and tone you’re looking for.

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