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How Do You Use Verbs Correctly? Conjugation And Tenses

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What are Verbs?

Verbs are words that indicate action. In the sentence “I write every day”, ‘write‘ is the verb. Verbs are inflected to indicate tense, person, number and mood.

A verb can be in any of the six categories: action, change of state, mental process, sensation/perception, accomplishment and possession. Here is an example sentence using each of these categories:

Action: ‘I forged this blade.’
Change in state: ‘I went to the store.’
Mental process: ‘I thought about going.’
Sensation/perception: ‘The snow was cold. I felt it melting on my skin.’
Accomplishment: ‘I ran a marathon.’
Possession: ‘This cup is mine.’

Verbs are also categorized by their function. Transitive verbs are verbs that take a direct object. Here is an example sentence using a transitive verb: ‘I kicked the ball’.

The ball is the direct object of the verb ‘kicked’. Intransitive verbs do not require direct objects. Here is an example sentence using an intransitive verb: ‘The ball rolled’.

How do you conjugate verbs?

What is verb Conjugation?

Conjugation refers to how verbs are modified based on who’s doing the action of a verb and what tense it is being used in.

There are many types of conjugations: present, past, past perfect, future etc. Each type will change depending on the state of action and who or what is being acted upon.

Types of Verbs

Some of the verbs have irregular conjugation patterns and there are many other types of verbs but they are not included in this article.

These include auxiliary verbs (can and could), modal verbs (can, could, must, shall, should), modal auxiliaries (shall have been; will have been; would have been) and periphrastic tenses/parts of speech (present participle = having acted).

How to Use Verbs Correctly.

Verbs have many types of tenses. Each verb has a specific use and those uses must be learned by memorization. Verbs can be formed in different ways depending on their tense. There are three types of verbs: present, past and future.

What is a regular verb?

A regular verb is a verb that has a set pattern or conjugation rule. Common regular verbs are:

  • go, work, play, call etc.

What is an irregular verb?

An irregular verb is a verb that does not have a set pattern or conjugation rule. An irregular verb will be unpredictable in its conjugation.

These verbs are usually learned by memorization or are formed by an established pattern (that may only apply to one verb) and then those forms copied onto other similar looking or sounding verbs.

Common irregular verbs are:

  • be, do, see, have etc.
How many tenses are there?
Typical mistakes we make using verbs

Typical Misuse of Verbs in Sentences

Most new users of the English language get the tenses wrong. Also, conjugating irregular verbs presents particular challenges. Regular verbs have a pattern, while irregular verbs have no set pattern.

With regular verbs, you only need to plug in the right verb tense and person or thing performing the action. However, with irregular verbs, you have to do more mental preparation in order to conjugate them. It’s a question of intuition and memory.

Conjugation of a Verb Properly

Conjugation is just a fancy way for saying who is doing something and when they are doing it, for example:

  • I run
  • He/she runs
  • We run
  • You run
  • They run

The above shows the Present Simple tense. The Present Continuous tense would be

  • I am running
  • She/he/they are running
  • We are running
  • You are running
  • They are running

Are verb tenses important?

Well, yes they are incredibly important, from the point of view of understanding the writing in a story or a report, fiction or fact.

Tenses tell you whether something is happening now, has happened in the past or will happen in the future. Tense tells a lot about events.

Examples of tenses.

  • Present tense: I write. (I am writing now.)
  • Past tense: I wrote. (I had written before.)
  • Future tense: I will write. (It will have happened before I finish this sentence.)
  • Present continuous tense: I am writing now.
  • Past continuous tense: We were working when the alarm went off.
  • Future continuous tense: They will be studying as we speak.
  • Future perfect tense: We have been waiting too long to leave.

What are the 6 verb tenses?

The main verb tenses are best shown by example:

Examples of Verb Tenses

  • Present: I run
  • Present continuous: I am running
  • Future: I will run
  • Past continuous: I was running
  • Future continuous: I will be running
  • Present perfect continuous: I have been running

There others, but these are the main ones.

In fact, there are 12 main verb tenses, but these six are the ones you will need to know for the IELTS exam.

What is a compound verb?

Where is the position of a verb in a sentence?

In English, verbs appear in many different places within a sentence.

  1. Before the subject: It’s raining.
  2. After the subject: The children are playing outside.
  3. After a preposition and before the subject: I saw him in town today.
  4. Before the object: I baked a cake for my friend’s birthday party.
  5. As the complement of an adjective or adverb: He is extremely angry at his team mates’ behaviour today at training camp’.

What verb tenses describe continuing action?

Continuous action can either be happening now, in the past or in the future.

The verb tense that describes something happening now is called ‘present continuous’. It’s used to describe ongoing action in the present time.

The tense denoting continuous action in the past is called the ‘Past Continuous’.
The tense indication continuous action in the future is called the ‘Future Continuous’.

How many verb tenses in English?

There are 16 tenses in the English language, namely:

  • Simple present
  • Present continuous
  • Simple past
  • Past continuous
  • Present Perfect
  • Present perfect continuous
  • Past perfect
  • Past perfect continuous
  • Future perfect
  • Future perfect continuous
  • Simple future
  • Future continuous
  • Present conditional
  • Present continuous conditional
  • Perfect conditional
  • Perfect continuous conditional

How do we use verbs in the present tense?

There are two basic present tenses, simple and continuous. In the Present Continuous we might say ‘I run’, while in Present Continuous we might say ‘I am running’.

What tense should I use in my resume?

It’s pretty simple – if you’re talking about a current position, use the present simple or the present continuous tense.

If writing about past jobs, then use either the simple past or the continuous past tense.

Can you mix past and present tense?

Not really, particularly if you’re writing a story, at least not in the same scene. Of course, you can have two or more past events in the same scene, but not all at the same time.

What is a compound verb?

A more technical term for a verb that is made up of two or more words. For example, ‘get over’ or ‘give up’.

When does it matter if I use the right tense?

It matters when you are writing in formal papers such as letters, emails and reports. It does not matter as much in casual chat.

Can I use the future tense to describe something that happened in the past?

No, not in normal English. Mostly though, this is done only when talking about ‘going to’ and ‘would’ ( have + past participle). So you might say something like “I would have gone to Paris if I had the time.”

What are the most common verbs?

There are lots of verbs which can be used in English. For example, we often use:

  • to have
  • to be
  • to listen
  • to taste
  • to see
  • to feel
  • to think
  • to know
  • to understand

What are active and passive verbs?

Active verbs are used when the subject is the person or thing doing the action.

Ex. The man threw the ball. (The subject [man] performs the action [throwing])

Following are sample sentences which demonstrate the usage of passive action verbs.

  1. The woman was bitten by the dog.
  2. The dog was bitten by the woman.
  3. The ball was thrown by the boy at the wall.