Verbs

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  • Verbs are an important part of speech. They are the action heroes of language because they describe the action that takes place in sentences. This is why primary school teachers call them “doing words” or “action words”.
  • A verb is the minimum requirement for a sentence. A sentence cannot be a sentence without a verb.

What do verbs do?

   Verbs can be used to show:

  • physical actions – e.g. The cow jumped over the moon.
  • mental actions – e.g. I remembered to lock the front door.
  • states of being – e.g. Ronaldo is the world’s best striker.

Verb tenses

We hear people talking about verb tenses, but what exactly do we mean when we say that verbs have tense? Tense relates to time. In other words, tense relates to when the action in a sentence takes place. Time is categorised into the present, the past or the future.

  • Present tense verbs tell us about actions taking place now.
  • Past tense verbs tell us about actions that took place in the past.
  • Future tense verbs tell us about actions that will take place in the future.

The three tenses – the present, the past and the future – are further divided into the simple tenses, the perfect tenses, the continuous tenses and the perfect continuous tenses.

The simple tenses

Examples of the simple tenses are given below:

  • Ravi studies Geology. (present simple)
  • Ravi studied Geology. (past simple)
  • Ravi will study Geology. (future simple)

For a detailed explanation of the simple tenses, see  www.chapter2blog.com/the-simple-tenses

The perfect tenses

Examples of the perfect tenses are given below:

  • Ravi has studied Geology. (present perfect)
  • Ravi had studied Geology. (past perfect)
  • Ravi will have studied Geology. (future perfect)

For a detailed explanation of the perfect tenses, see  www.chapter2blog.com/the-perfect-tenses

The continuous tenses

Examples of the continuous tenses are given below:

  • Ravi is studying Geology. (present continuous)
  • Ravi was studying Geology. (past continuous)
  • Ravi will be studying Geology. (future continuous)

For a detailed explanation of the continuous tenses, see  www.chapter2blog.com/the-continuous-tenses/

The perfect continuous tenses

Examples of the perfect continuous tenses are given below:

  • Ravi has been studying Geology. (present perfect continuous)
  • Ravi had been studying Geology. (past perfect continuous)
  • Ravi will have been studying Geology. (future perfect continuous)

For a detailed explanation of the perfect continuous tenses, see   www.chapter2blog.com/the-perfect-continuous-tenses/ 

The verb timeline

As tenses can get confusing, even for mother-tongue speakers, you may find it useful to use a verb timeline when learning about or comparing verb tenses. In this way, you can place the tenses on a time continuum like the one here. This will help you to visualise how all the tenses fit together.

PAST
Past perfect continuousJohn had been texting a friend.
Past continuousJohn was texting his friend.
Past perfectJohn had texted a friend.
Past simpleJohn texted a friend.
PRESENT
Present perfect continuousJohn has been texting a friend.
Present continuousJohn is texting a friend.
Present perfectJohn has texted a friend.
Present simpleJohn texts a friend.
 FUTURE
Future perfect continuousJohn will have been texting a friend.
Future continuousJohn will be texting a friend.
Future perfectJohn will have texted friend.
Future simpleJohn will text a friend.

For instance, you will be able to see that the past perfect continuous tense is further back in time than the past perfect tense. In the same way, the past perfect tense is further back in time than the past simple tense and the past continuous tense. You will be able to reach similar conclusions for the present tense and the future tense.

It’s a good idea to refer to the timeline when you are learning about verbs.

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