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Encyclopedia > English verbs
English grammar series

English grammar The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... For the topic in theoretical computer science, see Formal grammar Grammar is the study of rules governing the use of language. ... English grammar is a body of rules specifying how meanings are created in English. ...

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Verbs in the English language are a lexically and morphologically distinct part of speech which describes an action, an event, or a state. Disputed English grammar denotes disagreement about whether given constructions constitute correct English. ... This is a paradigm of English verbs, that is, a set of conjugation tables, for the model regular verbs and for some of the most common irregular verbs. ... English has a large number of irregular verbs. ... In the English language, a modal auxiliary verb is an auxiliary verb (or helping verb) that can modify the grammatical mood (or mode) of a verb. ... In English as in many other languages, the passive voice is the form of a transitive verb whose grammatical subject serves as the patient, receiving the action of the verb. ... The English language once had an extensive declension system similar to modern German or Icelandic. ... The English personal pronouns are classified as follows: First person refers to the speaker(s). ... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... A compound is a word composed of more than one free morphemes. ... An honorific is something that is attached to the name but is not normally used elsewhere, e. ... This article is focused mainly on usage of English relative clauses. ... Look up gender in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Look up lexicon in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other uses, see Morphology. ... In grammar, a part of speech or word class is defined as the role that a word (or sometimes a phrase) plays in a sentence. ...


While English has many irregular verbs (see a list), for the regular ones the conjugation rules are quite straightforward. Being part of an analytic language, English regular verbs are not very much inflected; all tenses, aspects and moods except the simple present and the simple past are periphrastic, formed with auxiliary verbs and modals. It has been suggested that Regular verb be merged into this article or section. ... A regular verb is a verb whose conjugation can be predicted given a few verb forms (principal parts) and a few rules. ... In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection (regular alteration according to rules of grammar). ... An isolating language is a language in which the vast majority of morphemes are free morphemes and are considered to be full-fledged words. By contrast, in a synthetic language, a word is composed of agglutinated or fused morphemes that denote its syntactic meanings. ... Inflection of the Spanish lexeme for cat, with blue representing the masculine gender, pink representing the feminine gender, grey representing the form used for mixed-gender, and green representing the plural number. ... Periphrasis, like its Latin counterpart circumlocution, is a figure of speech where the meaning of a word or phrase is indirectly expressed through several or many words. ... In linguistics, an auxiliary (also called helping verb, auxiliary verb, or verbal auxiliary) is a verb functioning to give further semantic or syntactic information about the main or full verb following it. ...

Contents

Principal parts

A regular English verb has only one principal part, the infinitive or dictionary form (which is identical to the simple present tense for all persons and numbers except the third person singular). All other forms of a regular verb can be derived straightforwardly from the infinitive, for a total of four forms (e.g. exist, exists, existed, existing) In language learning, the principal parts of a verb are the series of key forms which the student has to learn by heart in order to be able to conjugate the verb through all its forms. ...


English irregular verbs (except to be) have at most three principal parts:

  Part Example:
1 infinitive write
2 preterite wrote
3 past participle written

Strong verbs like write have all three distinct parts, for a total of five forms (e. g. write, writes, wrote, written, writing). The more irregular weak verbs also require up to three forms to be learned. In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. ... The preterite (also praeterite, in American English also preterit, or past historic) is the grammatical tense expressing actions which took place in the past. ... In linguistics, a participle is an adjective derived from a verb. ... In the Germanic languages, strong verbs are those which mark their past tenses by means of ablaut. ... In Germanic languages, weak verbs are by far the largest group of verbs, which are therefore often regarded as the norm, though historically they are not the oldest or most original group. ...


The highly irregular copular verb to be has eight forms: be, am, is, are, being, was, were, been, of which only one is derivable from a principal part (being is derived from be). On the history of this verb, see Indo-European copula. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... A feature common to all Indo-European languages is the presence of a verb corresponding to the English verb to be. ...


Verbs had more forms when the pronoun thou was still in regular use and there was a number distinction in the second person. To be, for instance, had art, wast and wert. Most modern English speakers think of thou as a relic of Shakespeares day. ...


Most of the strong verbs that survive in modern English are considered irregular. Irregular verbs in English come from several historical sources; some are technically strong verbs (i. e. their forms display specific vowel changes of the type known as ablaut in linguistics); others have had various phonetic changes or contractions added to them over the history of English. Note: This page or section contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... In linguistics, the term ablaut designates a system of vowel gradation (i. ...


See also: Wiktionary appendix: Irregular English verbs


Infinitive and basic form

Formation

The infinitive in English is the naked root form of the word. When it is being used as a verbal noun, the particle to is usually prefixed to it. When the infinitive stands as the predicate of an auxiliary verb, to may be omitted, depending on the requirements of the idiom. A verbal noun is a noun formed directly as an inflexion of a verb or a verb stem, sharing at least in part its constructions. ...


Uses

  • The infinitive, in English, is one of two verbal nouns: To write is to learn.
  • The infinitive, either marked with to or unmarked, is used as the complement of many auxiliary verbs: I will write a novel about talking beavers; I am really going to write it.
  • The basic form also forms the English imperative mood: Write these words!
  • The basic form makes the English subjunctive mood: If you write it, they will read.

A verbal noun is a noun formed directly as an inflexion of a verb or a verb stem, sharing at least in part its constructions. ... In linguistics, many grammars have the concept of grammatical mood, which describes the relationship of a verb with reality and intent. ... In grammar, the subjunctive mood (sometimes referred to as the conjunctive mood) is a verb mood that exists in many languages. ...

Third person singular

Formation

The third person singular in regular verbs in English is distinguished by the suffix -s. In English spelling, this -s is added to the stem of the infinitive form: runruns. A regular verb is a verb whose conjugation can be predicted given a few verb forms (principal parts) and a few rules. ... Look up affix in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... English spelling (or orthography), although largely phonemic, has more complicated rules than many other spelling systems used by languages written in alphabetic scripts and contains many inconsistencies between spelling and pronunciation, necessitating rote learning for anyone learning to read or write English. ...


If the base ends in a sibilant sound like /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /tʃ/ (see IPA) that is not followed by a silent E, the suffix is written -es: buzzbuzzes; catchcatches. A sibilant is a type of fricative, made by speeding up air through a narrow channel and directing it over the sharp edge of the teeth. ... The symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet can be used to show pronounciation in English. ... Note: This page or section contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ...


If the base ends in a consonant plus y, the y changes to an i and -es is affixed to the end: crycries.


Verbs ending in o typically add -es: vetovetoes.


In Early Modern English, some dialects distinguished the third person singular with the suffix -th; after consonants this was written -eth, and some consonants were doubled when this was added: runrunneth. Shakespeares writings are universally associated with Early Modern English Early Modern English refers to the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period (the latter half of the 1400s) to 1650. ...


Use

  • The third person singular is used exclusively in the third person form of the English simple "present tense", which often has other uses besides the simple present: He writes airport novels about anthropomorphic rodents.

The Road to Omaha by Robert Ludlum contains elements of self-parody not often found in airport novels, but the back cover still promised byzantine treachery and relentless action. Airport novels represent a literary genre that is not so much defined by its plot or cast of stock characters, as...

Exception

English preserves a number of preterite-present verbs, such as can and may. These verbs lack a separate form for the third person singular: she can, she may. All surviving preterite-present verbs in modern English are auxiliary verbs. The verb will, although historically not a preterite-present verb, has come to be inflected like one when used as an auxiliary; it adds -s in the third person singular only when it is a full verb: Whatever she wills to happen will make life annoying for everyone else. The preterite-present verbs are a small group of anomalous verbs in the Germanic languages. ...


Present participle

Formation

The present participle is made by the suffix -ing: gogoing.


If the base ends in silent e, it is dropped before adding the suffix: believebelieving.


If the e is not silent, it is retained: agreeagreeing.


If the base ends in -ie, change the ie to y and add -ing: lielying.


If:

  • the base form ends in a single consonant; and
  • a single vowel precedes that consonant; and
  • the last syllable of the base form is stressed

then the final consonant is doubled before adding the suffix: setsetting; occuroccurring.


In British English, as an exception, the final <l> is subject to doubling even when the last syllable is not stressed: yodelyodelling, traveltravelling; in American English, these follow the rule: yodeling, traveling. British English (BrE, BE, en-GB) is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere in the Anglophone world. ... For other uses, see American English (disambiguation). ...


Irregular forms include:

  • singeing, where the e is (sometimes) not dropped to avoid confusion with singing;
  • ageing, in British English, where the expected form aging is ambiguous as to whether it has a hard or soft g;
  • words ending in -c, which add k before the -ing, for example, trafficking, panicking, frolicking, and bivouacking.
  • a number of words that are subject to the doubling rule even though they do not fall squarely within its terms, such as diagramming, kidnapping, programming, and worshipping.

British English (BrE, BE, en-GB) is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere in the Anglophone world. ... For other uses, see G (disambiguation). ...

Uses

  • The present participle is another English verbal noun: Writing is learning (see gerund for this sense).
  • It is used as an adjective: a writing desk; building beavers.
  • It is used to form a past, present or future tense with progressive or imperfective force: He is writing another long book about beavers.
  • It is used with quasi-auxiliaries to form verb phrases: He tried writing about opossums instead, but his muse deserted him.

In linguistics, a gerund is a non-finite verb form that exists in many languages. ... In grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun (called the adjectives subject), giving more information about what the noun or pronoun refers to. ...

Preterite

Formation

In weak verbs, the preterite is formed with the suffix -ed: workworked. In Germanic languages, weak verbs are by far the largest group of verbs, which are therefore often regarded as the norm, though historically they are not the oldest or most original group. ...


If the base ends in e, -d is simply added to it: honehoned; dye > dyed.


Where the base ends in a consonant plus y, the y changes to i before the -ed is added; denydenied.


Where the base ends in a vowel plus y, the y is retained: alloyalloyed.


The rule for doubling the final consonant in regular weak verbs for the preterite is the same as the rule for doubling in the present participle; see above.


Many strong verbs and other irregular verbs form the preterite differently, for which see that article. In the Germanic languages, strong verbs are those which mark their past tenses by means of ablaut. ... It has been suggested that Regular verb be merged into this article or section. ...


Use

  • The preterite is used for the English simple (non-iterative or progressive) past tense. He wrote two more chapters about the dam at Kashawigamog Lake.

Past participle

Formation

In regular weak verbs, the past participle is always the same as the preterite. In Germanic languages, weak verbs are by far the largest group of verbs, which are therefore often regarded as the norm, though historically they are not the oldest or most original group. ...


Irregular verbs may have separate preterites and past participles; see Wiktionary appendix: Irregular English verbs.


Uses

  • The past participle is used with the auxiliary have for the English perfect tenses: They have written about the slap of tails on water, about the scent of the lodge... (With verbs of motion, an archaic form with be may be found in older texts: he is come.)
  • With be, it forms the passive voice: It is written so well, you can feel what it's like to gnaw down trees!
  • It is used as an adjective: the written word; a broken dam.
  • It is used with quasi-auxiliaries to form verb phrases: 500,000 words got written in record time.

In grammar, voice is the relationship between the action or state expressed by a verb, and its arguments (subject, object, etc. ...

Tenses of the English verb

English verbs, like those in many other western European languages, have more tenses than forms; tenses beyond the ones possible with the five forms listed above are formed with auxiliary verbs, as are the passive voice forms of these verbs. Important auxiliary verbs in English include will, used to form the future tense; shall, formerly used mainly for the future tense, but now used mainly for commands and directives; be, have, and do, which are used to form the supplementary tenses of the English verb, to add aspect to the actions they describe, or for negation. The borders of Western Europe were largely defined by the Cold War. ... In linguistics, an auxiliary (also called helping verb, auxiliary verb, or verbal auxiliary) is a verb functioning to give further semantic or syntactic information about the main or full verb following it. ... In grammar, voice is the relationship between the action or state expressed by a verb, and its arguments (subject, object, etc. ... It has been suggested that Future perfect tense be merged into this article or section. ... In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ...


English verbs display complex forms of negation. While simple negation was used well into the period of early Modern English (Touch not the royal person!) in contemporary English negation almost always requires that the negative particle be attached to an auxiliary verb such as do or be. I go not is archaic; I don't go or I am not going are what the contemporary idiom requires. Negation (i. ...


English exhibits similar idiomatic complexity with the interrogative mood, which in Indo-European languages is not, strictly speaking, a mood. Like many other Western European languages, English historically allowed questions to be asked by inverting the position of verb and subject: Whither goest thou? Now, in English, questions are often trickily idiomatic, and require the use of auxiliary verbs, though occasionally, the interrogative mood is still used in Modern English. In linguistics and grammar, the interrogative mood is a grammatical mood used for asking questions. ...


Overview of tenses

In English grammar, tense refers to any conjugated form expressing time, aspect or mood. The large number of different composite verb forms means that English has the richest and subtlest system of tense and aspect of any Germanic language. This can be confusing for foreign learners; however, the English verb is in fact very systematic once one understands that in each of the three time spheres - past, present and future - English has a basic tense which can then be made either perfect or progressive (continuous) or both.

Simple Progressive Perfect Perfect progressive
Future I will write I will be writing I will have written I will have been writing
Present I write I am writing I have written I have been writing
Past I wrote I was writing I had written I had been writing

Because of the neatness of this system, modern textbooks on English generally use the terminology in this table. What was traditionally called the "perfect" is here called "present perfect" and the "pluperfect" becomes "past perfect", in order to show the relationships of the perfect forms to their respective simple forms. Whereas in other Germanic languages, or in Old English, the "perfect" is just a past tense, the English "present perfect" has a present reference; it is both a past tense and a present tense, describing the connection between a past event and a present state. For other uses, see Future (disambiguation). ... The present tense is the tense (form of a verb) that is often used to express: Action at the present time A state of being A habitual action An occurrence in the near future An action that occurred in the past and continues up to the present There are two... The past is the portion of the timeline that has already occurred; it is the opposite of the future. ...


However, historical linguists sometimes prefer terminology which applies to all Germanic languages and is more helpful for comparative purposes; when describing wrote as a historical form, for example, we would say "preterite" rather than "past simple".


This table, of course, omits a number of forms which can be regarded as additional to the basic system:

  • the intensive present I do write
  • the intensive past I did write
  • the habitual past I used to write
  • the "shall future" I shall write
  • the "going-to future" I am going to write
  • the "future in the past" I was going to write
  • the conditional I would write
  • the perfect conditional I would have written
  • the (increasingly seldom used) subjunctives, if I be, if I were.

Some systems of English grammar eliminate the future tense altogether, treating will/would simply as modal verbs, in the same category as other modal verbs such as can/could and may/might. See Grammatical tense for a more technical discussion of this subject. In the English language, a modal auxiliary verb is an auxiliary verb (or helping verb) that can modify the grammatical mood (or mode) of a verb. ... Grammatical tense is a way languages express the time at which an event described by a sentence occurs. ...


A full inventory of verb forms follows.


Present simple

Or simple present.

  • Affirmative: I write; He writes
  • Negative: He does not (doesn't) write
  • Interrogative: Does he write?
  • Negative interrogative: Does he not write? (Doesn't he write?)

Note that the "simple present" in idiomatic English often identifies habitual or customary action:

He writes about beavers (understanding that he does so all the time.)

It is used with stative verbs:

She thinks beavers are remarkable

It can also have a future meaning (though much less commonly than in many other languages):

She goes to Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Put Tuesday in the plural, and She goes to Milwaukee on Tuesdays means that she goes to Milwaukee every Tuesday.


The present simple has an intensive or emphatic form with "do": He does write. In the negative and interrogative forms, of course, this is identical to the non-emphatic forms. It is typically used as a response to the question Does he write, whether that question is expressed or implied, and says that indeed, he does write.


The idiomatic use of the negative particles not and -n't in the interrogative form is also worth noting. In formal literary English of the sort in which contractions are avoided, not attaches itself to the main verb: Does he not write? When the colloquial contraction -n't is used, this attaches itself to the auxiliary do: Doesn't he write? This in fact is a contraction of a more archaic word order, still occasionally found in poetry: *Does not he write? Negation (i. ... A literary language is a register of a language that is used in writing, and which often differs in lexicon and syntax from the language used in speech. ...


Present progressive

Or present continuous.

  • Affirmative: He is writing
  • Negative: He is not writing
  • Interrogative: Is he writing?
  • Negative interrogative: Is he not writing? (Isn't he writing?)

This form describes the simple engagement in a present activity, with the focus on action in progress "at this very moment". It too can indicate a future, particularly when discussing plans already in place: I am flying to Paris tomorrow. Used with "always" it suggests irritation; compare He always does that (neutral) with He's always doing that. Word order differs here in the negative interrogative between the hyperformal is he not writing and the usual isn't he writing?


Present perfect

Traditionally just called the perfect.

  • Affirmative: He has written
  • Negative: He has not written
  • Interrogative: Has he written?
  • Negative interrogative: Has he not written? (Hasn't he written?)

This indicates that a past event has one of a range of possible relationships to the present. This may be a focus on present result: He has written a very fine book (and look, here it is, we have it now). Or it may indicate a time-frame which includes the present. I have lived here since my youth (and I still do). Compare: Have you written a letter this morning? (it is still morning) with Did you write a letter this morning? (it is now afternoon). The perfect tenses are frequently used with the adverbs already or recently or with since clauses. Although the label “perfect tense” implies a completed action, the present perfect can identify habitual (I have written letters since I was ten years old.) or continuous (I have lived here for fifteen years.) action.


In addition to these normal uses where the time frame either is the present or includes the present, the “have done” construct is used in temporal clauses to define a future time: When you have written it, show it to me. It also forms a past infinitive, used when infinitive constructions require a past perspective: Mozart is said to have written his first symphony at the age of eight. (Notice that if not for the need of an infinitive, the simple past would have been used here: He wrote it at age eight.) The past infinitive is also used in the conditional perfect.


Present perfect progressive

Or continuous.

  • Affirmative: He has been writing
  • Negative: He has not been writing
  • Interrogative: Has he been writing?
  • Negative interrogative: Has he not been writing? (Hasn't he been writing?)

Used for unbroken action in the past which continues right up to the present. I have been writing this paper all morning (and still am).


Past simple

Or preterite.

  • Affirmative: He wrote
  • Negative: He did not write
  • Interrogative: Did he write?
  • Negative interrogative: Did he not write? (Didn't he write?)

The same change of word order in the negative interrogative that distinguishes the formal and informal register also applies to the preterite. Note also that the preterite form is also used only in the affirmative. When the sentence is recast as a negative or interrogative, he wrote not and wrote he? are archaic and not used in modern English. They must instead be supplied by periphrastic forms.


This tense is used for a single event in the past, sometimes for past habitual action, and in chronological narration. Like the present simple, it has emphatic forms with "do": he did write.


Although it is sometimes taught that the difference between the present perfect and the simple past is that the perfect denotes a completed action whereas the past denotes an incomplete action, this theory is clearly false. Both forms are normally used for completed actions. (Indeed the English preterite comes from the Proto-Indo-European perfect.) And either can be used for incomplete actions. The real distinction is that the present perfect is used when the time frame either is the present or includes the present, whereas the simple past is used when the time frame is in the absolute past. The Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) is the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans. ...


The "used to" past tense for habitual actions is probably best included under the bracket of the past simple. Compare:

When I was young I played football every Saturday.
When I was young I used to play football every Saturday.

The difference is slight, but "used to" stresses the regularity, and the fact that the action has been discontinued.


Past continuous

Or imperfect or past progressive.

  • Affirmative: He was writing
  • Negative: He was not writing
  • Interrogative: Was he writing?
  • Negative interrogative: Was he not writing? (Wasn't he writing?)

This is typically used for two events in parallel:

While I was washing the dishes my wife was walking the dog.

Or for an interrupted action (the past simple being used for the interruption):

While I was washing the dishes I heard a loud noise.

Or when we are focusing on a point in the middle of a longer action:

At three o'clock yesterday I was working in the garden. (Contrast: I worked in the garden all day yesterday.)

Past perfect

Or the "pluperfect"

  • Affirmative: He had written
  • Negative: He had not / hadn't written
  • Interrogative: Had he written?
  • Negative interrogative: Had he not written? (Hadn't he written?)

Past perfect progressive

Or "pluperfect progressive" or "continuous"

  • Affirmative: He had been writing
  • Negative: He had not been / hadn't been writing
  • Interrogative: Had he been writing?
  • Negative interrogative: Had he not been writing? (Hadn't he been writing?)

Relates to the past perfect much as the present perfect progressive relates to the present perfect, but tends to be used with less precision.


Future simple

  • Affirmative: He will write
  • Negative: He will not / won't write
  • Interrogative: Will he write?
  • Negative interrogative: Will he not write? (Won't he write?)

See the article Shall and Will for a discussion of the two auxiliary verbs used to form the simple future in English. There is also a future with "go" which is used especially for intended actions, and for the weather, and generally is more common in colloquial speech: Look up shall in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

I'm going to write a book some day.
I think it's going to rain.

But the will future is preferred for spontaneous decisions:

Jack: "I think we should have a barbecue!"
Jill: "Good idea! I'll go get the coal."

Future progressive

  • Affirmative: He will be writing
  • Negative: He will not / won't be writing
  • Interrogative: Will he be writing?
  • Negative interrogative: Will he not be writing? (Won't he be writing?)

Used especially to indicate that an event will be in progress at a particular point in the future: This time tomorrow I will be taking my driving test.


Future perfect

  • Affirmative: He will have written
  • Negative: He will not / won't have written
  • Interrogative: Will he have written?
  • Negative interrogative: Will he not have written? (Won't he have written?)

Used for something which will be completed by a certain time (perfect in the literal sense) or which leads up to a point in the future which is being focused on.

I will have finished my essay by Thursday.
By then she will have been there for three weeks.

Future perfect progressive

Or future perfect continuous.

  • Affirmative: He will have been writing
  • Negative: He will not / won't have been writing
  • Interrogative: Will he have been writing?
  • Negative interrogative: Will he not have been writing? (Won't he have been writing?)

Conditional

Or past subjunctive.

  • Affirmative: He would write
  • Negative: He would not / wouldn't write
  • Interrogative: Would he write?
  • Negative interrogative: Would he not write? (Wouldn't he write?)

Used principally in a main clause accompanied by an implicit or explicit doubt or "if-clause"; may refer to conditional statements in present or future time:

I would like to pay now if it's not too much trouble. (in present time; doubt of possibility is explicit)
I would like to pay now. (in present time; doubt is implicit)
I would do it if she asked me to. (in future time; doubt is explicit)
I would do it. (in future time; doubt is implicit)

(A very common error by foreign learners is to put the would into the if-clause itself. A humorous formulation of the rule for the EFL classroom runs: "If and would you never should, if and will makes teacher ill!" But of course, both will and would CAN occur in an if-clause when expressing volition. A student of English may rarely encounter the incorrect construction as it can occur as an archaic form.)


Conditional perfect

Or pluperfect subjunctive/past-perfect subjunctive.

  • Affirmative: He would have written
  • Negative: He would not / wouldn't have written
  • Interrogative: Would he have written?
  • Negative interrogative: Would he not have written? (Wouldn't he have written?)

Used as the past tense of the conditional form; expresses thoughts which are or may be contrary to present fact:

I would have set an extra place if I had known you were coming. (fact that an extra place was not set is implicit; conditional statement is explicit)
I would have set an extra place, but I didn't because Mother said you weren't coming. (fact that a place was not set is explicit; conditional is implicit)
I would have set an extra place. (fact that a place was not set is implicit, conditional is implicit)

Conditional perfect progressive

  • Affirmative: He would have been writing
  • Negative: He would not / wouldn't have been writing
  • Interrogative: Would he have been writing?
  • Negative interrogative: Would he not have been writing? (Wouldn't he have been writing?)

Present subjunctive

The form is always identical to the infinitive. This means that, apart from the verb "to be", it is distinct only in the third person singular and the obsolete second person singular.

  • Indicative: I write, thou writest, he writes, I am
  • Subjunctive: I write, thou write, he write, I be

Used to refer to situations which are or may be contrary to fact in the present or future; the infactuality is rarely explicit:

I insist that he come at once. (present time; fact that the action is not currently occuring is implicit)
I insist that he come when I call. (future time; fact that the action may or may not occur is implicit)

(The present subjunctive is often interchangeable with the past subjunctive like so: I insist that he must come at once.)


Imperfect subjunctive

The use of the old term "imperfect" shows that this form is so rare that it has not been integrated into the modern system of English tense classification. The imperfect subjunctive is identical to the past simple in every verb except the verb "to be". With this verb, there is an option, but no longer a necessity, of using were throughout ALL forms (i.e., I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner, vs. I wish I was a girl). This Desert Life is the third studio album from Counting Crows. ...

  • Indicative: I was
  • Subjunctive: traditionally I were but now more commonly I was.
  • If I were rich, I would retire to the South of France.

References

  • Gilman, E. Ward (editor in chief) Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (Merriam-Webster, 1989) ISBN 0-87779-132-5
  • Greenbaum, Sidney. The Oxford English Grammar. (Oxford, 1996) ISBN 0-19-861250-8
  • McArthur, Tom, The Oxford Companion to the English Language (Oxford, 1992) ISBN 0-19-863136-7

See also

English has a large number of irregular verbs. ... In the English language, a modal auxiliary verb is an auxiliary verb (or helping verb) that can modify the grammatical mood (or mode) of a verb. ... In English as in many other languages, the passive voice is the form of a transitive verb whose grammatical subject serves as the patient, receiving the action of the verb. ... The Northern Subject Rule is a grammatical pattern inherited from Northern Middle English. ... Verbification, or Verbing is a process in linguistics whereby nouns, adjectives, and other words are transformed into verbs. ... This is a paradigm of English verbs, that is, a set of conjugation tables, for the model regular verbs and for some of the most common irregular verbs. ...

External links

  • Verbs in English Grammar, wikibook
  • Verb Conjugation Trainer,
  • English Verbs Fully Conjugated - 665 Regular and Irregular English verb list. Conjugated in various tenses.
  • English Verb Tenses - English Verb Tenses Explained plus Exercises
  • English Grammer Worksheets
  • The English Verb Tense System: A dynamic presentation using the Cuisenaire Rods

  Results from FactBites:
 
English verbs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3081 words)
Verbs in the English language are a lexically and morphologically distinct part of speech which describes an action, an event, or a state.
A regular English verb has only one principal part, the infinitive or dictionary form (which is identical to the simple present tense for all persons and numbers except the third person singular).
English exhibits similar idiomatic complexity with the interrogative mood, which in Indo-European languages is not, strictly speaking, a mood.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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