Verbs: are you doing it right?

We take a look at verbs, and all the different forms they can take

Verbs: are you doing it right?

Welcome, my grammar-inclined friends, to a new decade of wordsmithery and eloquence. We’re going to kick it off by looking at verbs, and all the different forms they can take.

Types of verbs

Regular vs Irregular

To start, we need to make a note of the two main types of verb. The powers-that-be decided to identify these groups with fairly uninspiring names: regular verbs and irregular verbs. A regular verb can be used in multiple tenses (we’ll discuss tenses shortly) by simply adding a conjunction to the original word. For example, the base word “love” can become the past tense word “loved” or the present participle “loving”, thanks to the addition of “-ed” or “-ing.”

Irregular verbs, however, do not abide by the same rules. Their tenses cannot always be altered with a simple conjunction. In fact, there may be no conjunction at all – the spelling of the base word may simply change to reflect the instance in which it is being used. For example, the word “run” is an irregular verb because its past tense form is “ran”, not the decidedly clumsy “runned.”

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some verbs are spelled ‘irregularly’ but pronounced ‘regularly.’ That is, the base word “pay” becomes the past tense “paid.” This form is not spelled using a standard conjunction; however, when said aloud, it sounds the same as “payed” would. Now that I write that, it sounds made up. But I swear, people have actually thought about this.

Verb forms

Form Usage
Infinitive Base form.
Third-person present tense When describing what someone else is doing.
Present participle Describing the state you are presently in.
Past participle Describing a completed action. Can also be an adjective.
Past tense Expressing an action or a state in the past.

So, now that we know about the different types of verbs, we can start looking more closely at the different forms they come in. These forms can sometimes be difficult for writers to get their heads around, so the team over at Outwrite has been working hard to make sure that when you commit a verb form error, they can resolve it. Nevertheless, it’s best for you to understand how to alter your verbs correctly, so that’s what we’ll look at here. Grammatists generally agree that there are five verb forms. The first is the infinitive. This refers to the base word. To use an earlier example, “love” is an infinitive. Next, we have the third-person present tense. On a very basic level, this is what we use when we are describing what someone else is doing. Let’s look at the example below.

Mary loves the city.

Mary’s love for the city is happening now – it is the state she is presently in. But what if Mary wants to create a Tweet saying how much she loves the city? Then, she would use the present participle form (let’s just take a quick detour to Vocabulary Valley at this point: “participle” refers to a word that started its life as a verb but has been altered to become an adjective or a noun. A past participle can function as either of these. It is also used in perfect tense and when using passive voice). This is a word that is used in the present tense and can refer to yourself or someone else. Present participles often use “-ing” suffixes. For our case, an example of a present participle might be:

I am loving the city!

The last two types of verbs are the past participle form and the past tense form. The past participle form is typically characterized by an “-ed” suffix. For example, if the mounting cost of living deters Mary’s love for the city, we might say:

Mary loved the city.

This is how Mary used to feel. But now she’s spent the last five years living in a five-share apartment with people she met during a group assignment at college, and she doesn’t feel that way anymore; so, we use the past participle form of “love.”

Beware of irregular verbs

If we’re dealing with a regular verb (such as “love”), the past participle and past tense forms lead us to the same word. However, if we are working with an irregular verb, the two will be different. Let’s think about the word “do” to demonstrate this. The past tense of “do” is “did.” The past participle, however, is “done.” As we know, past participles have a few functions, but the most obvious indicator of one is its ability to serve as an adjective.

If the irregular verb in your sentence needs to function as an adjective, the past tense form will not do; we cannot say “the job is did.” Instead, we need to employ the past participle; “the job is done.”

The world of verb forms is a complicated one. Hopefully, this has served as a bit of a primer on the different types of verbs and where they fit into your writing. Don’t forget to use Outwrite to make sure you’re using the right words!