Verb Forms and
Basic Structure of the Main Clause
Subject / Verb/ Object
She sang a song.
Subject/ Verb/ Complement
Her voice was lovely.
Her voice = a lovely thing.
English is rather an analytic language.
That is, to determine what a word is, you
often must look at how it is used and where
it is in a sentence.
Other words may change in form (or
pronunciation) when they become something
For example, refer becomes reference, and harass
becomes harassment (accent shift?)
Both Verb and Noun
The word produce, for example, can be used as a
verb or a noun (but pronounced differently):
We should produce more widgets to help the U.S.
economy improve. (Action verb).
The produce at that grocery is all certified organic.
(Subject, thus a noun).
There is fresh broccoli in one of the produce bins.
(Noun adjunct---two nouns put together, one
modifying the other, stating what kind of bins.)
Verbs and Nouns
Some words look and sound exactly the
same. You can only tell what they are by how
they are used in a sentence.
You should study hard to be successful in college.
He was secluded in his study, working on his
We decided to form a study group.
Dummy subject/linking verb/real subject.
There was a pretty bird sitting in the tree.
There were pretty birds sitting in the tree.
There was a flock of pretty birds in the tree.
It is raining.
The bird is a cardinal. It sits there every morning
This is a bird. These are trees.
Part of Sentences
Verb Forms: Present Tense
Present tense—called “the plain form” or the
“dictionary” form in some texts
Used for present action, habitual or repeated
action, a “fact”; used sometimes for dramatic
effect in a story.
Maria sings in church every Sunday.
Maria’s voice is lovely.
The congregation is hushed and attentive as
Present Tense (continued)
For third person singular and plural (he, she, it,
and they), remember that OFTEN-if there is no “s” on the subject, there should be
an “s” or “es” on the verb.
The girl sings beautifully.
The girls sing beautifully.
The gardener waters the flowers every week.
The workers water the flowers every week.
Tenses: Present Progressive
Present progressive, the --ing form
Used when something is happening right now or
when other events are occurring at the same
I am sitting at my computer right now. The sun
is shining, and the sky is blue.
Maria is singing right now, and the congregation
is listening intently.
Often it has a “d” or “ed” on the end. It is also
used as the past participle with helping verbs.
He watered the flowers yesterday.
They watered the flowers when he was out of
Maria used to sing in church every Sunday.
She was supposed to sing last Sunday, but she
got sick. (N.B., “to sing” is not a verb, but a
verbal, and it does not have tense.)
Past and Present Perfect Forms
These sentences use the correct forms of have
I have been an English teacher for thirty years.
(Present perfect—I was in the past and I still
I had been a graduate student working on a
Ph.D. before I became a lecturer at Oakton.
(Past perfect—I am not a graduate student
Examples of Helping
These verb forms for past perfect, present
perfect, and so on can also be helping verbs.
He has been watering the flowers on Sundays all
summer. (Present perfect—Started in the past and is
still going on)
He had been watering the flowers on Sundays for many
years, but he changed the schedule last week. (Past
perfect—past, finished and done)
Note watering here which is a present participle. See next
frame for those –ing forms.
Some tenses are used primarily when the
sentence has a time marker or when there is a
contrast with another point in time.
I was walking in my neighborhood when I saw a
dog running loose.
I have been walking in this neighborhood for
years, but until this morning, I had never seen a
dog on the street unaccompanied by its owner.
I will be looking for that dog this afternoon after
I get off work.
Verbs and Verbals
Verbs like “water” get an -ng added for the
present participle. But sometimes they cease to
function as verbs and become nouns.
Watering the lawn during a drought is forbidden
by the city ordinance. (Here watering the lawn is
the name of an activity. It function as the
subject of the sentence; hence, it is a noun
Distinguishing between Verbs and
Be sure to distinguish between verbs and
verbals. Verbals do not function as verbs
anymore. You can see what they are by their
position in the sentence. They may be nouns
(subjects or objects) or even adjectives.
To sing is a great joy. Singing is a great joy.
(Subjects; hence, nouns).
Mary loves to sing. (Loves is the verb here. To sing
is the name of an activity, the object of loves.)
Distinguishing between Verbs
and Verbals (cont.)
Verbs which function as verbs show action or
They have different forms and tense (time)
markers, and they must agree in person and
number with the subject of the sentence or the
All independent clauses must have a real
Real Verbs and Verbals
Verbals stay the same. Their form does
They love to sing. They love singing. They loved
singing. They would like to sing in the choir.
He liked to dance. He likes to dance. He would like
to dance in the musical.
He was a singing and dancing star years ago.
(adjectives modifying star)