Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Verb Forms

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Verb Forms

Except for "to be", verbs have at most five forms. Strong verbs (mostly Anglo-Saxon in origin) have different spellings for all five forms. For example, the strong verb "write" has five different forms:
  1. write: root form. This is the form you'll find as the main entry in the dictionary
  2. writes: present conjugated form: except for "be", this form is constructed by adding 's' or 'es' to the end of the root form, changing a final 'y' to an 'i'.
  3. wrote: simple past tense form
  4. written: passive/"past" participle form (pa. pple.)
  5. writing: "present" participle form (pr. pple.); this form is always constructed by adding 'ing' to the end of the root form, dropping the silent 'e' if present.
There are patterns to the strong verbs, but I think it's easier to just memorize them. Regular verbs (mostly French in origin) usually have the same form for the past tense and past participle. For example:
  1. walk
  2. walks
  3. walked
  4. walked
  5. walking
Remember that tense names don't match all that well with actual time. In fact, I usually refer to the forms by number when I'm teaching English to non-native speakers, including Deaf students. But it's still necessary to know their names, because the dictionary refers to them by name. If you look up the root form of the verb in the dictionary, you'll usually see the past tense, past participle and present participle along with the main entry (the present conjugated form is regular enough that it's often omitted). If you look up one of the derived forms, the dictionary will usually tell you the root form and which particular form you've found. For example, if you look up the forms of "write" in, you'll find:
  1. write: (omitting the archaic forms) "wrote... [3rd form; past]; written... [4th form; pa. part.]; writing [5th form; pr. part.]"
  2. writes: just goes to "write".
  3. wrote: "a simple past tense of write."
  4. written: "a past participle of write."
  5. writing: if you scroll down to look at the verb form, it's just a copy of "write".
Here's a list of irregular verbs.

Memorize "be", "have", and "do". They are often used, and they are used to form complex tenses. "Be" is especially irregular. Unlike every other verb, "be" has three present conjugated forms and two conjugated past tense forms:
  1. be
  2. am/are/is
  3. was/were
  4. been
  5. being
I amWe areI wasWe were
You are-You were-
He/She/It isThey areHe/She/It wasThey were

Seriously: memorize this table cold.

The singular forms for the second person, "you", look more like the other plural forms. English used to have separate singular and plural forms for "you". The singular forms, "art" and "wert", and the singular pronouns, "thou", "thee", and "thy", fell into disuse, and the original plural forms ("are", "were"; "you", "your") took over for both singular and plural.

Here's "have":
  1. have
  2. has
  3. had
  4. had
  5. having
and "do":
  1. do
  2. does
  3. did
  4. done
  5. doing


  1. What is the verb form of
    i) danger
    ii) strong
    iii) quantity
    These are the words in the question paper of VI std english. Please give the answer.

  2. I don't give homework answers. :-)

    You can construct many verb forms of nouns by adding "en" as a prefix or a suffix. Some words use "-ify" or "-ize" as a suffix.


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