A verb is an essential component of a sentence. A sentence is not complete without a verb and its subject. Typically, verbs denote the action performed by the subject. For example:
“ticks” is an action verb here as the clock is the doer of the action. The clock does the action of ticking.
“sat” is the action verb here, and the doer of this action is the subject of the sentence – “the beggar”.
On several occasions, verbs, instead of presenting the action of the subject, simply connect the subject to some other additional information about the subject. In such cases, they are called linking verbs. Let’s take a closer look at such verbs.
Verbs can also connect or link the subject to additional information about this subject. Such verbs are called linking verbs.
The verb “is” does not denote an action. But it connects the subject of the sentence – “My mother” – to some additional information about her – a great cook.
The verb “seems” does not denote any action, but it connects the subject of the sentence “Richard” with the additional information – that he looks sad.
The verb “was” does not denote any action, but it connects “Rachael”, the subject of the sentence, with the remaining information about her.
How to recognize linking verb?
If you can replace a verb in the sentence with is, am, or are and the sentence still makes sense, then those verbs are linking verbs.
Let’s replace “looked” with “is” – The question is difficult. This replacement makes complete sense. Hence “looked” is a linking verb in this sentence. Furthermore, it will not make sense to consider the question actually performing the action of “looking”. The sense of the sentence here is that the question actually appeared difficult to everyone in the class.
So can we say, Josh is the question? Not at all. Hence, “looked” in this sentence is an action verb. In fact, in this sentence, it will make complete sense to say that Josh is actually performing the action of “looking”.
Next, we will see how different verb forms are created from the base form of the verb.
Base form of Verb
The base verb is the simplest form of a verb, a form without any special ending. You can easily recognize these verbs from the manner in which they are used in “to + verb” forms. For example dance, do, cook, sing, play, read, etc. (to dance, to do, to cook, to sing, to play, to read).
All verb tenses are created from the base form of the verb.
They can be created either by adding some helping verbs before the base form of the verb or by making some changes to the verb form itself or both.
Here, to create the future tense, we added the helping verb “will” to the base form of the verb, but to make the present continuous for, we added the helping verb “is” and modified “run” to “running”. Furthermore, to create the simple past tense, we changed the form of the verb to “ran”.
Here again, we added helping verbs to create the first two tenses. For the second tense, we also modified “laugh” to “laughing”. To create past tense, we added “ed” after the base form of the verb.
Base verbs are also used with pronouns I and you and all plural subjects.
a. I cook food.
b. You dance well.
c. You play all the time.
d. They do the work.
Singular form of verbs can be formed by adding “s” or “es” to the base verb. For example:
a. She cooks food.
b. She dances well.
c. She plays all the time.
d. He does the work.
Understanding of base form of the verb is very important. Once you have this understanding than by understanding how different tenses work and how you can write verbs in different tenses, you will get a good handle on verbs. Next, we will review helping verbs.
A verb can consist of more than one word. In such cases, there is one main verb and the rest are called the auxiliary or the helping verbs. Following is the list of the auxiliary verbs:
is, are, am, was, were, has, have, had, has been/have been/had been, can/could, may/might, will/would, shall/should
Let’s take a few sentences to understand helping verbs:
In this sentence, “deliberating” is only part of the verb. It alone does not form a verb in this sentence. The preceding helping verb “is” makes them together the verb.
In this sentence, “working” is only part of the verb. But the complete verb here is “has been working” in which “has been” are the helping verbs without which the -ing form of the verb cannot be regarded as a verb.
Also, notice that when we use do/does/did, it is always followed by a base verb. And when that happens, the number of the helping verb depends upon the number of the subject.
Notice that “the flower” is the singular subject. That is why the helping verb used for this subject is singular “does”. Since we have already used one singular verb in the sentence, the verb that follows the helping verb is in the base form. Even if the subject is singular, we cannot say “does not bloom”.
Now if this sentence is written without the helping verb, then the main verb will follow the number of the subject. For example:
Likewise, in past tense sentences, if the helping verb “did” is used, then it is also followed by the base verb. We cannot use the past tense of the main verb with “did”. For example:
Now that we understand the base form of verb and the helping verbs, let’s understand how the tenses govern the timing of the action presented by the verb.
The tense of the verb denotes the time of the action. The tense can be divided into three categories – Present Tense, Past Tense, and Future Tense.
1. Present Tense
The verb that refers to the present time is said to be in the Present Tense. For example:
a. Harry goes to a wizard school.
b. Ria is working on her project.
Present Tense can be further divided into four main sub-categories:
1.1 Simple Present Tense
This tense is used to present general information or universal truths that hold true for all times. It is also used to express habitual actions. For example:
a. The sun rises in the east. (Universal Truth)
b. My mother always prepares breakfast for me. (Habitual Action)
c. The company gives handsome perks to diligent employees. (General Information)
1.2 Present Progressive/Continuous Tense
This tense is used to show an action that has begun, is still happening, and is not finished yet. Since the action is still continuing and not over, it is called the continuous tense. Generally, the present continuous tense is derived by adding “ing” to the base verb. A point to remember here is that only the verb-ing word does not make the continuous tense. The verb-ing word must be preceded by a present tense helping verb to make the verb in the present continuous tense. Let’s take examples here:
a. Stella is explaining her project to the investors.
b. The managers are looking for people for a number of vacant posts in the company.
c. I am cooking dinner early so that I can watch my favorite show.
The verbs in all the above three sentences are “is explaining”, “are looking”, and “am cooking”. Notice that if we used only “explaining”, “looking”, or “cooking” in these sentences (without the helping verbs “is”, “are”, and “am” respectively), they would not qualify as verbs. These helping verbs actually show the tense of the action.
Hence, in present continuous tense, the verb-ing word must be preceded by is/are/am.
1.3 Present Perfect Tense
This tense is used to denote an action
a. She has just finished her breakfast.
b. They have just returned from the vacation.
a. The recession has made many people jobless.
b. Many students have applied for travel concession.
a. Johnny has visited Europe.
b. I have read all the Harry Potter books.
a. I have known him since 1987.
b. He has been sick for the last two weeks.
The present perfect tense verbs are written with “has” or “have”. However, these words in themselves are not present perfect verbs. To be so, they must be followed by the verb in its past participle or third form. The verbs in all the above-mentioned examples follow this structure.
So “Has” or “Have” together with the past participle form of the verb makes the present perfect tense.
If “has” or “have” is used just by itself and is not followed by a verb in its past participle form, then it works as a simple present tense verb.
a. I have lots of chores to finish. (Simple Present Tense)
b. He has your book. (Simple Present Tense)
1.4 Present Perfect Continuous Tense
This tense is used to present an action that started sometime in the past and is still continuing in the present. This tense is a mix of present continuous and present perfect tense and hence uses the following structure:
a. Joe has been sleeping since morning.
b. They have been playing all afternoon.
2. Past Tense
The verbs that denote that the actions took place in the past are said to be in the past tense. For example:
a. John went to school yesterday.
b. Gina prayed before she slept.
Past Tense can be further divided into four sub-categories:
2.1 Simple Past Tense
This tense is used to present general information about the actions that started in the past and finished in the past as well. We also use this tense to talk about past habits. For example:
a. Many freedom fighters gave their lives, fighting for the independence of their country.
b. Mary practiced for 12 hours every day before her first dance performance.
2.2 Past Progressive/Continuous Tense
This tense is used to show an action that was happening in the past. The time of the action may be or may not be indicated.
Like the present continuous tense, the past continuous tense is derived by adding “ing” to the base verb. A point to remember here is that only the verb-ing word does not make the continuous tense. The verb-ing word must be preceded by a past tense helping verb to create the verb in past continuous tense. Let’s take examples here:
a. Roy was playing football with his younger brother.
b. The managers were looking for people for a number of vacant posts in the company.
c. The power went off when I was reading.
The verbs in the above three sentences are “was playing”, “were looking”, and “was reading”.
Notice that if we used only “playing”, “looking”, or “reading” (without the helping verbs “was”, “were”, and “was” respectively) in these sentences, they would not qualify as verbs. These helping verbs actually show the tense of the action.
2.3 Past Perfect Tense
This tense describes an action that was completed before a certain moment in the past:
a. I had finished my dinner before my parents came back home.
b. By the time he reached the venue, the audience had left.
The past perfect tense verbs are always written with “had”. However, this word in itself is not a past perfect verb. To be so, “had” must be followed by the verb in its past participle form. The verbs in the above-mentioned examples follow this structure. So “had” plus the past participle form of the verb makes the past perfect tense.
If “had” is used just by itself and is not followed by a verb in its past participle form, then it works as a simple past tense verb.
a. I had your book last week but not anymore. (Simple Past Tense)
b. The team had great respect for its former coach. (Simple Past Tense)
2.4 Past Perfect Continuous Tense
This tense is used to present an action that started sometime before a certain point in the past and continued up to that time. This tense is a mix of past continuous and past perfect tense and hence uses the following structure:
a. When Prof. Roy joined the institute, Prof Sen had already been teaching there for six years.
b. By November 2011, he had been working on his fifth book for three months.
3. Future Tense
In order to talk about the events that are to take place sometime in the future, we use Future Tense. We use “will” or “shall” to indicate the future tense.
a. Riya’s performance will take place sometime next month.
b. Tomorrow, you will get your flu shot.
Like Present and Past Tenses, Future Tense can also be divided into four sub-categories.
3.1 Simple Future Tense
This tense is used to talk about the general events that will take place in the future. We also use future tense for events that we think or believe will take place in the future.
a. Mary will perform well in her singing recital.
b. I think John will participate in the annual marathon this time.
3.2 Future Progressive/Continuous Tense
This tense is used to show an action that will begin sometime in the future and will continue in the future as well.
Like the present and past continuous tenses, the future continuous tense is also derived by adding “ing” to the base verb. The verb-ing word must be preceded by future tense helping verbs to create the verb in future continuous tense. Let’s take examples here:
a. Roy will be playing football with his younger brother.
b. The managers shall be looking for people for a numbers of vacant posts in the company.
The verbs in the above sentences are “will be playing” and “will be looking”. Notice that if we used only “playing” or “looking” in these sentences, without the helping verbs “will be” or “shall be”, they would not qualify as verbs. These helping verbs actually show the tense of the action. Hence, in the future continuous tense, the verb-ing word MUST BE PRECEDED by will be/shall be.
3.3 Future Perfect Tense
This tense is used to talk about an action that will be completed by a certain future time. For example:
a. I will have finished my breakfast by the time he comes to pick me up tomorrow.
b. The authorities will have released the results by tomorrow evening.
3.4 Future Perfect Continuous Tense
This tense is used to denote a continuous action in the future with reference to a particular time/event set in the future. For example: