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English Verb tables.

Conjugations, irregular and regular English verbs and tenses chart.

 

The English verb is different from verbs of many other languages due to a lack of verb inflections. Inflections are the changes in the verb ending depending on the person or number we are talking about (I, you, it, he, she, we, they) or the tense used (talking about the present, past or future).

In the present tense, all verbs, except for the verb "to be" only change in the third person singular (it, he, she). This change includes the addition of an "s" or "es" at the end of the verb. In the past simple tense, there are no changes in the verb form.

It can be said about the English verb that it only possesses TWO tenses: past and present (I walk, I walked). There is no future tense form of English verbs. To talk about the future we must use what we call verb "aspects". The aspect of a verb talks about something which is not only tense (tense = time). Verb aspects often use "compound" forms of the verb, that is, additional words such as modal auxiliaries.

To talk about the future in English we must use compound forms of the verb (I will walk, I'm going to walk, I'm walking etc.). To give an example of the use of a verb aspect, the phrase "Don't tell me what to do! I will walk." is expressing a strong intention as well as future and "I'm going to walk in the hills this weekend" expresses future and a plan we have. Students should remember that "will + infinitive" is not simply the "future tense"; it is just one aspect of many ways to talk about the future in English.

The tables below show an overall view of the English verb and the various compound forms plus the use of the modal auxiliaries. Finally, there is an introduction to the structure of the English verb when used in questions and negative statements and a look at the passive mode in English.

So that this theoretical view may be more practical for the student of English, links will be added to study examples with explanations of the various aspects, tenses and modes of the English verb.      top arrow

WALK (regular verb)

When we talk about a "regular verb" in English grammar, we mean that the verb has a suffix of "ed" in the past simple form of the verb as well as when in the past participle. (Listen to the pronunciation of the "ed" endings...). For example: the infinitive "walk" has past simple tense and past participle "walked" (I walked, I have walked). (A past participle is the form of the verb that uses the auxiliary "have" and is used in what we call "perfect tenses". The past participle is also used in the passive.)

Unfortunately for the student of English, the vast majority of the most common English verbs are irregular. This means they do not end in "ed". Furthermore, the past simple may be different from the past participle. Open the following link to see a list with example sentences of the most common irregular verbs.      top arrow


The English infinitive:

The infinitive is the basic form of a verb without grammatical influence of person or tense. It can be said that the infinitive takes three forms: "walk", "to walk" and "walking". The choice of the type of infinitive normally depends on the preceding word or words.

Here are some examples of the three types of infinitive:
1) I should walk more often. (Use of infinitive without "to" or "ing" after modal auxiliaries.)
2) I want to walk. (After some verbs such as "want".)
3) I like walking. (After some verbs such as verbs to talk about likes and dislikes: love, fond of, hate, dislike, despise etc.)

Learners of English will need to become familiar with which infinitive is required. The best way to do this is by reading a lot of English. Learning rules will only help for some cases of infinitive use.

Learn more about infinitives, rules and exceptions...
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Verb tenses tables for "WALK".

Present Simple

Present Continuous

I

walk

you*

walk

he

walks

she

walks

it

walks

we

walk

they

walk

I

am

(I'm)**

walking

you

are

(you're)

walking

he

is

(he's)

walking

she

is

(she's)

walking

it

is

(it's)

walking

we

are

(we're)

walking

they

are

(they're)

walking

 

 

Past Simple

Past Continuos

I

walked

you

walked

he

walked

she

walked

it

walked

we

walked

they

walked

I

was

walking

you

were

walking

he

was

walking

she

was

walking

it

was

walking

we

were

walking

they

were

walking

 

 

Present Perfect Simple

Present Perfect Continuous

 

I

have

 (I've)

walked

you

have

 (you've)

walked

he

has

(he's)

walked

she

has

(she's)

walked

it

is

(it's)

walked

we

have

(we've)

walked

they

have

(they've)

walked

I

have

been

walking

you

have

been

walking

he

has

been

walking

she

has

been

walking

it

has

been

walking

we

have

been

walking

they

have

been

walking

 

 

Past Perfect Simple

Past Perfect Continuos

 

I

had

(I'd)

walked

you

had

(you'd)

walked

he

had

(he'd)

walked

she

had

(she'd)

walked

it

had

(it'd)

walked

we

had

(we'd)

walked

they

had

(they'd)

walked

I

had

been

walking

you

had

been

walking

he

had

been

walking

she

had

been

walking

it

had

been

walking

we

had

been

walking

they

had

been

walking

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Notes:

* We don't usually show "you" in the second person plural in English verb tables (as shown in most languages). Grammatically, English never makes the distinction between singular and plural "you". Neither is there any formal or informal register in English. "You" is used to address a dog, your friend, your boss, the rector of a university and the Prime Minister. Only when addressing royalty would a speaker resort to formalities: Your Majesty, Your Highness, Your Lordship...

** The contracted forms between subject and auxiliary should only be reserved for spoken English, written dialogue or informal or neutral written English (often acceptable in most forms of email English now). Contractions should not be used in formal letters, reports or other important texts.

The contracted form is possible in all compound forms of the verb between subject and auxiliary in the present and past tenses except "was" and "were". For reasons of space, not all the possible contractions have been included above.

Also note the possibility of contractions between nouns and the verbs "to be" and "to have": the man's... (the man is...), the policeman's got... (the policeman has got...).

The English question.

With the exception of the verbs and auxiliaries "to be" and "to have" and the modal auxiliaries, English verbs normally take the auxiliary "do" for questions and negative statements. "Do" conjugates as "does" in the present simple, third person singular (he, she, it) and "did" in the past simple for all persons.

The question structure or syntax is:
Do/does/did + subject + infinitive (without to). This is, in reality, an inversion of the subject and auxiliary common to most question syntax in English. Examples: Do you like English?; Does he watch much football?; Did he come back last night?

"Question" words such as: "when", "why", "what", "which", "who", "whose", "how", and their combinations ("how much", "how many", "what time" etc.) precede the auxiliary "do" in questions forms: When do they usually go on holiday?; How much did she give you?.


Omission of auxiliaries: "do", "does" and "did" in questions.

There is no inversion, so no use of do/does/did if "who" or "what" or "which" are the subject of the sentence. Examples: "Who wants to come with me?" (and not "who does want?"); "Which lasts longer?" (not "which does last?"); "What happened?" (not "what did happen?").

Compare "Who gave them the book?" where "who" is the subject (the person that does the action) and "Who did he give the book to?" where "who" is the indirect object (the person the thing was given to).

Notice that the question words "who", "what" and "which" as pronouns always take third person singular of the verb. This means that in present simple regular verbs will end in "s" and irregular verbs the third person singular form: "Who likes pizza?"; "Which goes in here?"; "What happens when it rains?".

However, "wh" words like "what" and "which" can also be adjectives. They can refer to singular or plural nouns: "What car goes at 300km per hour?", "What colours make a rainbow", "Which road goes to the city centre?", "Which vegetables contain vitamin C?".      top arrow

More examples of the omission of auxiliary "did" in past simple questions...

The English negative sentence.

The English verb forms the negative in the following way:

Subject + Do/does/did + not (contracted to don't, doesn't, didn't) + infinitive.

For example, "We don't like eating out", "It doesn't rain much here", "She didn't ring me yesterday".

The English sentence doesn't allow double negatives:
He doesn't like no sweet things, He never watches nothing on the TV, She can't speak to nobody.
These sentences are considered affirmative! In English grammar it is reasoned that if she CAN'T speak to NOBODY, she CAN speak to SOMEBODY. This may be difficult to accept for speakers of Spanish or French, for example, where double or even triple negatives in the same sentence create a negative meaning. The correct version of these sentences would be: "He doesn't like any sweet things", "He never watches anything on TV", "She can't speak to anybody / anyone". (The word "any" is considered affirmative.)      top arrow

Questions with "to be", "to have" (for possession).

The syntax is:
Verb + subject eg. "He is Spanish" = "Is he Spanish?", "They have a car" = "Have they a car?" (or "Have they got a car?" as in colloquial spoken form).

The verb "to have" is unique in that it can form a question with or without the use of do/does/did:

"Has he (got) some money?" or "Does he have any money?" but not, "Does he have got any money?"
Normally, these forms are interchangeable but there is sometimes (in British English especially) the idea that the former is a present condition (but not permanent) and the latter is always that way (permanent). In other words, the former is asking if he has any money in his pockets and the latter is asking if he is a wealthy person.

The negative of the verbs "to be", "to have" (not possessive), and modal auxiliaries.

The syntax is:
Subject + verb + not eg. "I am very hungry" = I am (I'm not very hungry), "He has a pen" = he has not (hasn't) a pen  (or he hasn't got a pen or he doesn't have a pen). "You have a pencil" = You have not (haven't) a pencil, "I was angry" = I was not (wasn't) angry, "You were there" = You were not (weren't) there, "He had a nice house" = he had not (hadn't) a nice house (or, he hadn't got a nice house; or, he didn't have a nice house).      top arrow

Contractions of the verb "to be" in the negative.

The verb "to be" may be contracted in more than one way in the present negative form. The possibilities are: "I am not" = I'm not, "you are not" = you're not or you aren't, "he/she/it is not" = he's/she's/it's not or he/she/it isn't, "we are not" = we're not or we aren't, "they are not" = they're not or they aren't.
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The Passive Voice.

The passive voice is used where there is less importance on the subject of the sentence and more on the action and the object or complement. The passive voice must use the auxiliary "to be".

"The criminal was arrested."

The fact that it was the police who arrested the criminal is not important. What is important is that he/she was arrested. However, grammatically, we now say that "the criminal" is now the subject of the sentence.

See here for a more detailed explanation of the use of the passive...

In languages such as Spanish, for example, the flexibility to use the direct or indirect object as the subject of a passive statement is not common as it is in English.

"She gave him some flowers" (active voice); "Some flowers were given to her" (passive); "She was given some flowers" (passive - a translation of this last sentence sounds strange in Spanish).

It is common as a school English grammar activity to ask students to convert active voice sentences into the passive voice. The following is a neat way to do this in three steps:


The syntax of the passive voice sentence:

Active voice:  "They are building a bridge".

1) The complement is placed before the subject. Pronouns must change accordingly:

"A bridge..."

2) The auxiliary "to be" is placed in the same tense, aspect and mode as the verb in the active form. ie. the verb is in present continuous so this must be the same in the passive:

"A bridge is being..."

3) The verb in the active form is then placed next as a past participle:

"A bridge is being built."

What was an active voice subject can be placed at the end (called the "agent") introduced by the preposition "by":

"A bridge is being built by them".

With modal auxiliaries the same steps are respected but the mode is copied into the passive instead of the tense or aspect.

Active: "The police could watch the thieves through telescopes."

Passive: "The thieves could be watched through telescopes."


The possible verb aspect and tense structures with the passive (list not exhaustive).

The following are a number of variations of the passive in English. Some of these may not translate directly into other languages:

It is sent (present simple).

It is going to be sent (with auxiliary "going to").

It was sent (past simple).

it used to be sent (past with auxiliary "used to").

It will be sent (future).

It would be sent (conditional).

It has been sent (present perfect).

It had been sent (past perfect).

It will have been sent (future perfect).

It would have been sent (conditional perfect).

It is being sent (present continuous).

It was being sent (past continuous).

It will be being sent (future continuous).

It would be being sent (conditional continuous).

It has been being sent (present perfect continuous - not usually used).

It had been being sent (past perfect continuous - not usually used).

Exercises on the passive...
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English modal auxiliaries (or modal verbs).

What are modal auxiliaries? Modal auxiliary verbs usually express either a "mode" such as the conditional or some meaning, for example, "can" shows the capacity to be able to do something. Modal auxiliaries are "defective" verbs in that they do not always have forms for past, present or participles and they have no infinitive form. They are followed by the infinitive of the verb without "to" (except for "ought to").

Question for modal auxiliaries.

Another important rule to remember is that modals do not use the auxiliaries do/does/did in interrogative or negative forms. Instead, there is inversion with the subject of the sentence:

"Do you can go tonight?" "Can you go tonight?",

All modals follow this inversion rule in questions. "Ought to" makes a question like this: "Ought I to visit her today?".

Contracted and negative forms of modal auxiliary verbs.

"He do not must be late" is not possible, we say: "He must not be late".

Modals have contracted forms for the negative. These are:

cannot = can't (can not cannot be written), could not = couldn't, I shall/will = I'll (he'll etc.), shall not = shan't, will not = won't, I would/should = I'd, should not = shouldn't, would not = wouldn't, must not = mustn't, ought not = oughtn't, may not = mayn't (very rare), might not = mightn't, need not = needn't.

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Modals as defective verbs.

Some modal auxiliary verbs have a past tense (eg. the past of "can" is "could") or a conditional form (the conditional of "can" is "could"). Due to the restrictions of use across the range of tenses and aspects, modals sometimes require the "help" of other verbs that substitute the modal so that tense and aspect can be properly expressed.

Below, we can appreciate the workings of the modal auxiliary verbs in English. Please read the notes below which explain the chart.

1

Can

Could (c)

Shall

Will

Should

(c)

Would

(c)

Must

deber

2

Could

Would

Must/Had to

3

able to, manage to, succeeded in

 

have to

 

1

Should/Ought to (c)

May

Might

Need

2

Should

Might

 Need

3

 

 be allowed to

 

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Explanation of the modal auxiliary chart.

a) The modals marked with (c) in the above table are the conditionals. That means that if placed next to a verb they can (depending on context) convey a conditional sense. "I would do it if I knew how", "I could go if I had time", "I should go if I were you" (meaning can be similar to would) or to express some form of obligation "You should go and visit your mother".
 

b) The second row of both tables are modals in the past tense. However, this past tense use may be restricted only to certain uses, for example, when used in reported speech.

More help on modal auxiliary verbs...


Examples of reported speech in English.

Look at the examples below and note how the first sentence before the hyphen is direct speech and the sentence after is the reported speech version (repeating what somebody said). The direct speech modal auxiliary verbs in the reported speech phrase are in a past tense of the direct speech modals. Modals are underlined:

"Will you help me?" he asked. - He asked if you would help him,

She asked, "Shall we go to the cinema tonight?" - She asked if they should go to the cinema tonight.

"I may go to university," he said. - He said that he might go to university.

"You needn't put on your new suit," she said - She said that he needn't put on his new suit

"He can leave whenever he likes," he said. - He said he could leave whenever he liked.

"Must you go so early?" she they asked. - They asked if he must/had to go so early.

"You should go and see it; it's lovely!" she said. - She said that we should go and see it and that it was lovely.

"I could swim when I was six," he said. - He said that he could swim when he was six.

See complete explanation of reported speech...

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c) The third row of each table shows the words that substitute the modal auxiliary when the verb form requires it. For example, if we need the infinitive of can, (remember that these auxiliary verbs are defective so have no infinitive) we replace can for able to: "I'd like you to be able to do it" and not, "I'd like you to can do it". Here are some more examples:

"I'll have to do it myself" and not: "I'll must do it myself"

"I haven't managed to do it yet" and not: "I haven't can do it yet"

"You would be allowed to go out if you finished your homework quickly" and not: "You would may go out if..."

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