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Verbs!

An overview of American English verbs, what they do, what they look like, and how they are used.
by

Mark Messer

on 3 December 2013

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Transcript of Verbs!

Verbs!
What do they do?
What do they look like?
(general form & meaning)

How do we use them?
(specific form & meaning)

Very simply, verbs show 'being'

"John
is
a teacher." "Your parents
seem
nice."

or 'doing'

"John
teaches
chemistry." "My parents
sold
their house."

In fact, verbs are amazingly complex. That complexity makes verbs difficult to learn. Even native speakers of English don't always use verbs correctly.

That complexity is good for one reason: it allows English speakers to express many "shades of meaning."
English verbs can indicate past, present, or future.
being: "Hannah was scared." "Hannah is angry." "Hannah will be happy."
doing: "Jake broke his arm." "Jake is crying." "Jake will go to the hospital."

They can relate two things to each other in time.
"Lou had left the house when the fire started."
"Mary was sleeping when Lou called.
"Arthur will be dancing on stage while you are making your presentation."

They can indicate the completeness of something, or the continuation of it.
"Tony has eaten pizza before."
"Tony is eating pizza now."

They can express different points of view.
"Mariko beat Ashley at today's swim meet."
"Ashley was beaten by Mariko at today's swim meet."

They can express different degrees of possibility.
"Jasmine might be here on time."
"Jasmine could be here on time."
"Jasmine should be here on time."
"Jasmine will be here on time."

To understand how to use verbs to do all these things, you need to study how to make a verb active vs. passive, the effect of modals, and how to form the different verb tenses.

You also need to know which verbs are regular and which are irregular; and which are normal, non-continuous, or mixed.

Most of these differences are covered in the middle section of this Prezi (general form and meaning). The verb tenses themselves are covered in detail in the last section (specific form and meaning).
Active vs. Passive (Voice)
Modals
Regular and Irregular Verb Forms
Normal vs. Noncontinuous Verbs & Mixed Verbs
'Active' and 'passive' are not two kinds of verbs. They tell us whether or not the subject of the sentence 'acts' (is the 'doer' of the verb). They are called 'active voice' and 'passive voice.'

So, if the subject of a sentence 'does' the verb, then that is an active sentence. Let's look at an example.

"A boy
bought
a blue bicycle."

The subject of the sentence is 'a boy,' and the verb is 'bought.' In this sentence, who is the 'doer' of the verb? In other words, who bought? Well, the boy bought, so the boy is the doer. The boy is the subject, and the boy is the doer of the verb. This is an active sentence. The subject, the boy, acted.
We can rewrite the sentence like this.

"A blue bicycle
was bought
by a boy."

The subject of this sentence is 'a blue bicycle,' and the verb is 'was bought.' In this sentence, who is the 'doer' of the verb? In other words, who bought? Well, the boy bought, so the boy is the doer. The bicycle is the subject, and the boy is the doer of the verb. They are NOT the same. This is a passive sentence. The subject, the bicycle, did not act.
Both of these examples tell us about the same action, but the first one focuses on the boy, and the second one focuses on the bicycle. Why might that be important?

Well, the first sentence could be part of a larger story about a boy.

"A boy
bought
a blue bicycle. While he was riding his bicycle home, he thought about showing his bicycle to his friends. He imagined their reactions. Tommy would ask to ride the bicycle. Jeri-Lynn would pretend she didn't see it."

The focus of much of the story is the boy, so it makes sense that he is the subject of the sentence.
The second sentence could be part of a police report about a sporting goods store robbery.

"We need to know what's missing," said the officer.
"There were 24 bicycles when we opened, and only two are left, a green one and a silver one. A blue bicycle
was bought
by a boy; otherwise, the rest of the bicycles must have been stolen."

The focus here is on the bicycles, not the boy, so it makes sense that the bicycle is the subject of the sentence.
So, we already know one reason for using passive voice: to change the focus of the sentence. Why else do we use 'passive voice?'

Passive voice is used because we don't know who did something. Imagine that I go home and find the front door of my house open and all my possessions gone. I could say
"someone
robbed
my house,"

but that puts the focus on the doer, not the event. To put the focus on the event, I should say
"My house
was robbed
."
We also use the passive voice to describe a scene. When the man who was robbed goes to court to tell everyone what he found, he will use the passive voice even if he thinks he knows who did it.

"When I got home, I saw that the lock on the door
had been broken
, the windows
had been left open
, and the cabinet drawers
had been thrown
against the wall
on the floor. The safe
had been stolen
, too."

If the man uses the name of the person he thinks did it, it will seem like he is making untruthful statements. He wasn't there, so he can't know for sure.
So, how is the passive voice formed from the active voice? Let's analyze the following example.


The boys

ate

the cake
. (active)

The cake

was eaten

by

the boys
. (passive)

1. The
object
of the active sentence becomes the
subject
of the passive sentence.
2. What's the verb tense of the
active verb
? Simple past. So, you use the simple past of the helping verb 'to be' (
was
) plus the past participle of the active verb (
eaten
).
3. If you want to keep the 'doer' in the sentence, you use the preposition
by
after the verb followed by the subject of the active sentence (
the boys
).
Note: you don't have to include the subject of the active sentence in the passive sentence. It's okay to write "
The cake

was eaten
."
The challenge of these transformations is changing the verb. Let's look at a few examples with different verbs.


The city

has built

a new arena
. (active)

'
Has built
' is the present perfect verb tense. The present perfect of 'to be' is '
has been
,' and the past participle of 'build' is '
built
.'


A new arena

has been built
(
by
the city)
. (passive)
At 9:00
,
my brother

will be singing
'
happy birthday.
' (active)

'
Will be singing
' is the future continuous verb tense. The future continuous of 'to be' is '
will be being
,' and the past participle of 'sing' is 'sung."

At 9:00
, '
happy birthday
'
will be being sung

by

my brother
(passive)
In all the examples, the determiners, articles, and adjectives (a, the, new, my) stay with their nouns.

In the last example, the adverb stays at the front because it's an important part of the sentence.

What if we have a lot more adverbs?


My sister

will deliver

your letter

graciously

to Bill

tomorrow

if she can find it
.

They are all in pink, so let me point out the four adverbs:
graciously
,
to Bill
,
tomorrow
, and
if she can find it
.
Without the adverbs, the sentence is


Your letter

will be delivered

by

my sister
.
(Actually, '
by

my sister'
is an adverb, too, but we know where it goes.)

'
Graciously
' is an adverb of manner, and it can go at the beginning, in the middle (between the helping and main verbs), or at the end (after the verb or other sentence-ending adverbs).

(
Graciously,
) your letter will be (
graciously
) delivered (
graciously
) by my sister (
graciously
).

'
Tomorrow
' is an adverb of time, and it can go at the beginning, or at the end.

(
Tomorrow,
) your letter will be delivered (
tomorrow
) by my sister (
tomorrow
).
'To Bill' is an adverb phrase of 'where,' and it only fits well at the end.

Your letter will be delivered (
to Bill
) by my sister (
to Bill
).

'If she can find it' is an adverb of condition, and it can go at the beginning or end, but in this example, 'end' means after 'by my sister.' It makes no sense after the verb.

(
If she can find it,
) your letter will be delivered by my sister (
if she can find it
).
So, how do we put all four in a sentence in a way that makes them easy to understand? We could put them all at the end, but that might make them hard to understand. Are some more strongly connected in terms of meaning than others? Let's start with the adverb which can only go at the end.

Your letter will be delivered by my sister.

to Bill
(e)

We can put '
to Bill
' after 'delivered' or after 'sister.' To which word is 'to Bill' more closely connected? It makes more sense to say 'delivered to Bill."

Your letter will be delivered
to Bill
by my sister.
The next adverb to add is the one with the fewest possible positions of the remaining adverbs.


if she can find it
(b,e)

If she can find it
, Your letter will be delivered to Bill by my sister
if she can find it.

In both positions, the pronouns connect to the nouns, but it's better to have the pronouns AFTER the nouns to which they refer, so put the adverb at the end.

Your letter will be delivered to Bill by my sister
if she can find it
.
The last two adverbs, 'graciously' and 'tomorrow,' have the most possibilities for position, but with two adverbs already placed at the end, let's put one at the beginning and one in the middle. Even though both adverbs relate to the verbs. One of them has a tighter connection to the verb, while the other one is more related to the whole sentence. In my opinion, 'graciously' seems closest to the verb, so let's put it in the middle and 'tomorrow' at the beginning.


Tomorrow
, your letter will be
graciously
delivered to Bill by my sister
if she can find it.

There are other ways to place the adverbs, but it's important to think about possible positions, the strength of connections, and the focus of the speaker.

Speaking of focus, remember, this part of the Prezi is really about passive voice vs. active voice.
We've looked at transforming an active sentence to a passive sentence and what to do with modifiers. Now let's look at transforming passive to active. The same rules about modifiers still apply, so let's just look at some examples, one with a 'doer' and one without a 'doer.'

First, an example with a 'doer.'


Billions of dollars of candy

was eaten

last Halloween

by

Americans
. (p)


Americans

ate

billions of dollars of candy

last Halloween
. (a)

1. The 'doer' in the passive sentence (
Americans
) becomes the
subject
of the active sentence. (We drop 'by.')
2. What's the verb tense of the helping verb 'was?' It's simple past, so we use the simple past form of the main verb 'eaten' (
ate
).
3. The subject of the passive sentence becomes the object of the active sentence (
billions of dollars of candy
).
4. The adverb of time (
last Halloween
) can go after the object, as in the example, or can go at the beginning of the sentence.
Now, an example without a 'doer.' Active sentences must have 'doers,' so you'll have to figure out what they are, or use an indefinite pronoun.


36,000,000 boxes of chocolate

will be produced

for Valentine's Day
. (p)


Candy makers

will produce

36,000,000 boxes of chocolate


for Valentine's Day
. (a)

1. From the original sentence, we understand who the doers are. They are 'chocolate manufacturers,' '
candy makers
,' 'companies,' or something similar. We make this doer the subject of the active sentence.
2. What's the verb tense of the helping verb 'will be?' It's simple future, so we use the simple future of the main verb 'produced' (
will produce
).
3. The subject of the passive sentence becomes the object of the active sentence (
36,000,000 boxes of chocolate
).
4. The adverb of reason (
for Valentine's Day
) can go after the object, as in the example, or at the beginning.
Now you know why we use passive sentences, how to transform active sentences into passive sentences, and how to transform passive sentences into active sentences.
Modals are words or phrases like these (
can
,
could
,
dare
,
had better
,
have to
,
have got to
,
may
,
might
,
must
,
need
,
ought to
,
shall
,
should
,
used to
,
will
, and
would
). 'Need' and 'dare' are more often used as verbs (I need water./I dare you to kiss her!), but they can be modals, too (You
needn't
come to work tomorrow./No student
dare
fall asleep in my class!).

Modals add meaning to verbs. Here are a few examples.

You
can
do it! (ability)
You
may
leave now. (permission)
You
should
try the beef. (recommendation)
I
will
pick up the kids. (volunteering)
Modals
are followed by the basic
infinitive form
of the verb (be, do, see,...). Let's compare a few sentences with
verbs
to sentences with modals and infinitives.

I
am
a good student. I
might

be
a good student.
She
is
a good student. She
might

be
a good student.
They
are
good students. They
might

be
good students.

In the sentences on the left, the verb changes because it has to agree with the subject, but the infinitive on the right doesn't change. This means it's easier to use modals correctly than verbs by themselves.
Many modals have present and past forms (can/could, shall/should, may/might), but these different forms have a lot of other meanings beyond just a change in time.

The website www.englishpage.com has some detailed explanations about the different modals and how they are used. It even has exercises you can do. Go to the following web address to learn more about modals! http://www.englishpage.com/modals/modalintro.html

There are many thousands of verbs in English, and it can be difficult to learn how to conjugate (form) them correctly so that they agree with the subject and show us the verb tense, etc.. Some verbs are formed exactly the same way as other verbs (they follow the same 'rules.'). For example, the past tense of the verbs 'cook,' 'walk,' 'review,' and 'complain' are all created by adding -
ed
.

Every day, I
walk
. Yesterday, I
walk
ed
.

This is the most common way to form the past tense.
The best way to learn how regular and irregular English verbs are formed is to be born in an English-speaking country and to pay attention as you grow up, but if you are studying English as a Second Language, you will have to study them to learn them, and that usually means using conjugation tables. A conjugation table shows you the basics of how a verb changes in the present and past tense, as well as the present and past participles. It looks something like this.

to cook singular present (past) plural present (past)
1st person I cook (cooked) We cook (cooked)
2nd person You cook (cooked) You cook (cooked)
3rd person He/she/it cooks (cooked) They cook (cooked)
past participle: cooked present participle: cooking
Many other verbs follow a different rule. For example, to make the verbs 'try,' 'fly,' 'ply,' and 'cry' past tense, you have to change the '
y
' to '
i
' before adding -
ed
.

Every day, I
tr
y
. Yesterday, I
tr
i
ed

For verbs like 'pat,' 'dab', 'tan,' 'tap,' and 'bar,' you need to double the final
consonant
then add -
ed
.

Every day, I
ta
p..
. Yesterday, I t
a
pp
ed
...

For verbs like 'phone,' 'include,' 'relate,' and 'reduce,' we just add -
d
.

Every day, I
phone
... Yesterday, I
phone
d
...
These four basic patterns (or rules) will help you understand how to form lots of verbs. We call these 'regular' verb because they follow rules, and these four basic rules will help you form many different verbs correctly. However, two things should be noted.

1. Conjugation is about the past tense, but it's also about the present tense, as well as the 'past participle' and 'present participle' forms, which are used for verbs and in other ways.

2. You might think that if regular verbs follow rules ('regles' in French), that irregular verbs do not follow rules. This is true of some of them, but some irregular verbs do follow rules. The groups, however, are much smaller, so they have to be studied more.
If you examine the table carefully, you'll see that in the present tense, you use '
cook
' with every subject except 3rd person singular. For 'he/she/it,' you used '
cooks
.'

In the past tense, you use '
cooked
,' which is the same as the past participle. Note: with irregular verbs, these may not be the same. Think of 'ate' (I
ate
yesterday) and 'eaten' (I haven't
eaten
in days.)

The present participle is formed by adding -ing:
cooking
.
While studying these forms, it is very helpful to write and say these conjugation tables especially if you add important details to make them more realistic. If you listened to someone saying a conjugation table, you might here these sentences.

I cook soup every day, but I cooked pasta yesterday.
We cook soup every day, but we cooked pasta yesterday.
You cook soup every day, but you cooked pasta yesterday.
He cooks soup every day, but he cooked pasta yesterday.
They cook soup every day, but they cooked pasta yesterday.
I have cooked, and I am cooking.

Notice the time markers (every day, yesterday) and the objects (soup, pasta). These will make your learning deeper and more realistic.
Though it's great to practice conjugation by thoughtfully reciting sentences like those above, when you have to study hundreds of verbs, it's easy to want to find a short-cut. If you know that only one subject takes a different present form, then you can try learning a table like this. Read the parts in parentheses as thoughts, and the parts in quotation marks as speech.

(I, we, you, they) "cook" (he/she/it) "cooks" (someone) "cooked"
(has) "cooked" (is) "cooking"

Eventually, when you understand deeply what all those parts mean, you can just say "cook, cooks, cooked, cooked, cooking"
There are still too many regular verb tables to cover in detail here, but you the document that follows includes the most common 50 or so verbs which follow the four rules mentioned earlier.

For basic conjugation tables of the most common irregular English verbs, see the two pages below.
For a look at a much larger list of irregular verbs, flashcards, exercises, and more, go to the following website:
http://www.englishpage.com/irregularverbs/irregularverbs.html

In short, normal verbs are verbs which can be used in the three basic verb forms (simple, perfect, and continuous.

Non-continuous verbs are verbs which can be used in the simple and perfect forms, but not in the continuous (also called progressive) form.
Mixed verbs are verbs that have different meanings, and one or more of those meanings are normal, while other meanings may be noncontinuous.

To understand normal and noncontinuous verbs better, look at the document which follows.
To understand mixed verbs, read the document below.
The system of English verb tenses is complex. In fact, it is so complex that most people make mistakes using verbs and don't even know it. Keep in mind, that these are only mistakes according to grammar books, and that if people understand clearly what is meant by a verb, then the error is a grammatical error, not a meaning error. To make the system easier to understand, it has to be simplified, but simpler explanations will sometimes be inaccurate in little ways.
The people at www.englishpage.com have created simplified materials to help intermediate ESL students learn about English verbs and how they are used. Advanced students will discover the errors, but can still learn a lot from the site: http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/verbtenseintro.html
I have used these materials for several years, and as I used them, I saw ways to make them clearer to my students. I created two verb tense summary sheets. You should only refer to these sheets AFTER you finish studying the related verb materials at www.englishpage.com. If you look at the sheets, and they don't make sense to you, then go back to the website.
When you get down to the exercises on the website, I believe there are certain steps that should be followed in order.
1. Do the exercise and take notes on the grammatical and meaningful clues that helped you choose your answer.
2. Study the verb tenses carefully on the website, then on the summary sheets.
3. Do the exercise again and write down again why you chose your answers. This should help you focus on the parts of the sentences that you didn't notice the first time.
4. If you still made a lot of mistakes, get help. If there are just one or two mistakes, move on to the next exercise. Don't expect to understand everything clearly the first time you study these materials.
After six months or a year, start again at the beginning. After your overall English has improved, you should be able to understand things that you didn't understand the first time.

What follow next are a table of all the verb tenses (so you can see how they are formed) and the two summary sheets, each of which gives you a different way of thinking about the same things.
A table showing how to form English verb tenses.
A summary of how to use verb tenses organized by tense.
A summary of how to use verb tenses organized by use and time.
Linking Verbs (being)
As you saw earlier, some mixed verbs with non-continuous meanings are linking verbs, which express "being," not "doing."
Linking verbs connect (link) a subject to a noun or an adjective. In a very simple sense, a linking verb is like an equal sign (
=
). We call these "predicate nouns" and "predicate adjectives" when they follow a linking verb.
Jack
is (=)
a teenager. ("Teenager" [noun] tells us who Jack is.)
Jill
is (=)
cute. ("Cute" [adj.] describes Jill.)

This works in the negative, too, because of the relationship between the subject and the predicate noun or adjective.
Jack
isn't
a girl. ("Girl" [noun] tells us who Jack isn't.)

These are different from "
doing
" verbs, right?
Jack
saw
Jill. ("Jill" is whom Jack saw, so "
see
" isn't a linking verb.)
Here are more sentences with linking verbs from the mixed verb list. Notice which ones work with
adjectives
,
nouns
, or
adjective phrases
made with nouns.

Your cat appears
healthy
. She appears
like any other cat
.
Your cat seems
normal
. She seems
like my cat.
Your cat looks
friendly
. She looks
like my cat
.
Your forehead feels
warm
. It feels
like a hot potato
.
That scarf would make
a great gift
!
My bag weighs
50 pounds
. It weighs
more than mine
.
Spring air smells
fresh
. Spring air smells
like flowers
.
Your idea sounds
smart
. It sounds
better than mine
.
This chili tastes
delicious
. This soup tastes
similar to Bob's chili
.
Here are some other linking verbs that are similar to "to be." Some can be used with predicate

adjectives
and
nouns
directly. Others cannot be used with nouns, but those nouns can be part of
adjective phrases.
Notice how that is done.
He became
angry
. The seed became a
tree
. She became
like me
.
The light grew
bright
.
My father has gotten
old
. My wife is getting
like her mother
.

Some of these, like "grow" and "get," are mixed verbs which can have active, "doing" meanings, like "Bob is getting paper" and "John is growing potatoes."
Full transcript