Saturday, August 8, 2009

Verb Forms: Main Verbs

English verbs come in several forms. For example, the verb to sing can be: to sing, sing, sang, sung, singing or sings. This is a total of 6 forms. Not many, considering that some languages (French, for example) have more than 30 forms for an individual verb. English tenses may be quite complicated, but the forms that we use to make the tenses are actually very simple! With the exception of the verb to be, English main verbs have only 4, 5 or 6 forms. To be has 9 forms. Do not confuse verb forms with tenses. We use the different verb forms to make the tenses, but they are not the same thing.

Forms of Main Verbs

Main verbs (except the verb "be") have only 4, 5 or 6 forms. "Be" has 9 forms.


infinitivebasepast simplepast participlepresent participlepresent simple, 3rd person singular
regular(to) workworkworkedworkedworkingworks
irregular(to) sing
(to) make
(to) cut
(to) do*
(to) have*
infinitivebasepast simplepast participlepresent participlepresent simple
(to) be*bewas, werebeenbeingam, are, is

In the above examples:

  • to cut has 4 forms: to cut, cut, cutting, cuts
  • to work has 5 forms: to work, work, worked, working, works
  • to sing has 6 forms: to sing, sing, sang, sung, singing, sings
  • to be has 9 forms: to be, be, was, were, been, being, am, is, are
The infinitive can be with or without to. For example, to sing and sing are both infinitives. We often call the infinitive without to the "bare infinitive".

At school, students usually learn by heart the base, past simple and past participlepresent participle3rd person singular present simple by heart - for another very simple reason: they never change. The present participle is always made by adding "-ing" to the base, and the 3rd person singular present simple is always made by adding "s" to the base (though there are some variations in spelling). (sometimes called V1, V2, V3, meaning Verb 1, Verb 2, Verb 3) for the irregular verbs. They may spend many hours chanting: sing, sang, sung; go, went, gone; have, had, had; etc. They do not learn these for the regular verbs because the past simple and past participle are always the same: they are formed by adding "-ed" to the base. They do not learn the and

* Note that "do", "have" and "be" also function as helping or auxiliary verbs, with exactly the same forms (except that as helping verbs they are never in infinitive form).

Example Sentences

These example sentences use main verbs in different forms.


  • I want to work
  • He has to sing.
  • This exercise is easy to do.
  • Let him have one.
  • To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Base - Imperative

  • Work well!
  • Make this.
  • Have a nice day.
  • Be quiet!

Base - Present simple
(except 3rd person singular)

  • I work in Kuala Lumpur.
  • You sing well.
  • They have a lot of money.

Base - After modal auxiliary verbs

  • I can work tomorrow.
  • You must sing louder.
  • They might do it.
  • You could be right.

Past simple

  • I worked yesterday.
  • She cut his hair last week.
  • They had a good time.
  • They were surprised, but I was not.

Past participle

  • I have worked here for five years.
  • He needs a folder made of plastic.
  • It is done like this.
  • I have never been so happy.

Present participle

  • I am working.
  • Singing well is not easy.
  • Having finished, he went home.
  • You are being silly!

3rd person singular, present simple

  • He works in Kuala Lumpur.
  • She sings well.
  • She has a lot of money.
  • It is Vietnamese.

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Collection of SPM English Language Question Papers

Terengganu Trial [Paper 1]

Johor Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Terengganu Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2] [Answers], Melaka Trial 2007 [Paper 1] [Paper 2], TIMES [Paper 1] [Paper 2] SPB [Paper 1] [Paper 2]


Terengganu Mid Year [Paper 1] [Paper 2],
MRSM Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], SBP Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Kelantan Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Terengganu Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Kedah Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Johor Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Perlis Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Sabah Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Sarawak Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Melaka Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2]


Terengganu TOV [Paper 1] [Paper 2] Terengganu Mid Year [Paper 1] [Paper 2]
Melaka Trial , Johor Trial , Sabah Trial , Kedah Trial , Perlis Trial , Times , SBP , Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2]

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