Verbs and Adverbs

Read these pages about verbs and adverbs. 


A verb is a kind of word (part of speech) that tells about an action or a state. It is the main part of a sentence: every sentence has a verb. In English, verbs are the only kind of word that changes to show past or present tense.

Every language in the world has verbs, but they are not always used in the same ways. They also can have different properties in different languages. For example, in some other languages e.g., Chinese & Indonesian) verbs do not change for past and present tense. This means the definition above only works well for English verbs.

There are sixteen verbs used in Basic English. They are: be, do, have, come, go, see, seem, give, take, keep, make, put, send, say, let, get.

Verb forms

In English and many other languages, verbs change their form. This is called inflection. Most English verbs have six inflected forms (see the table), but be has eight different forms.

Primary forms past: walked
example: She walked home
3rd singular present: walks
example: She walks home
plain present: walk
example: They walk home
Secondary forms plain form: walk
example: She should walk home
gerund: walking
example: She is walking home
past participle: walked
example: She has walked home

You should notice that some of the verb forms look the same. You can say they have the same shape. For example, the plain present and the plain form of walk have the same shape. The same is true for the past and the past participle. But these different forms can have different shapes in other verbs. For example, the plain present of be is usually are but the plain form is be. Also, the past of eat is ate, but the past participle is eaten. When you look for a verb in the dictionary, it is usually the plain form that you look for.

An English sentence must have at least one primary-form verb. Each main clause can only have one primary-form verb.

Kinds of Verbs

English has two main kinds of verbs: normal verbs (called lexical verbs) and auxiliary verbs. The difference between them is mainly in where they can go in a sentence. Some verbs are in both groups, but there are very few auxiliary verbs in English. There are also two kinds of auxiliary verbs: modal verbsand non-modal verbs. The table below shows most of the English auxiliaries and a small number of other verbs.

Auxiliary Verbs
modal verbs Can you play the piano?
will not be there
Shall we go
Yes, you may
You must be joking
non-modal verbs Have you seen him?
did see it
He is sleeping

Lexical Verbs
I didn't fall
had breakfast.
I'm playing soccer.
Must you make that noise?
Have you seen him?
I did see it
He is sleeping

Tense and Aspect


Tense is mainly used to say when the verb happens: in the past, present, or future. In order to explain and understand tense, it is useful to imagine time as a line on which past tense, present tense and future tense are positioned.

Past tense Present tense
She walked home She walks home
He ran quickly He runs quickly
could swim well can swim well
Did you live here? Do you live here?


Aspect usually shows us things like whether the action is finished or not, or if something happens regularly. English has two aspects: progressive and perfect. In English, aspect is usually shown by using participle verb forms. Aspect can combine with present or past tense.

Key Points
  • All verbs have both tense and aspect. 
  • Aspect gives us additional information about a verb by telling us whether the action was completed, continuous, neither, or both.
Key Terms
  • tense: A quality of verbs which indicates whether the verb occurred in the past, present, or future.
  • aspect: A quality of verbs which indicates whether the verb is continuous, completed, both of those, or neither.

Aspect Present (non-past) Past Future
Simple go(es) went will go
Continuous am/is/are going was/were going will be going
Perfect have/has gone had gone will have gone
Perfect continuous have/has been going had been going will have been going

Source: Wikipedia,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Source: Excelsior Online Writing Lab,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License.