It is often said that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. One of the main reasons this is the existence of several irregular English verbs. Beyond these, however, the regular verbs of the English language have conjugation patterns that are straightforward and easy to adapt to when learning.
In the case of a regular verb there is one principal part, referred to as the bare form, from which all forms of that verb will be derived. This will result in four forms. For the example of the bare form “jump”:
Jumps—third person singular present
Jumped—past tense in preterite form, as well as past participle
The bare form allows for a wide variety of grammatical contexts for each of the verb forms.
Some English verbs are known as “strong verbs” and have three principal parts. These are the infinitive, the preterite, and the past participle. Adding these forms gives these verbs a total of five functional forms. For the example of the word “write”:
Writes—third person singular present
Weak Verbs and Copular Verbs
Some of the irregular verbs in the English language have two principal parts. The most irregular of the verb types is the copular verb. This verb, “to be”, is conjugated into eight forms to be used in the range of grammatical contexts.
Am—first person singular present
Is—third person singular present
Are—second person singular and all situations of plural present
Was—singular preterite in first and third persons
Were—preterite in second person singular and all persons plural
The base form of English verbs is highly versatile. It is used in the following situations:
• Present tense for all situations other than third person singular
• Combines the infinitive with “to” in order to create the “to infinitive”
• When either marked (with “to”) or unmarked, the base form is used to complement auxiliary verbs
• Used for the imperative mood (instructing someone to do something)
• To express the subjunctive mood
Other Forms of Verbs
Within the language there are many other forms and versions of verbs that apply to different grammatical and contextual situations. When learning English students must be vigilant to understanding the different forms, as well as learning the variations and irregular applications, in order to communicate effectively.
Some of these forms include:
• Third person singular—used only in simple present tense
• Preterite form—used with a finite verb as a part of a clause, generally to discuss something of the past
• Past participle—used in the perfect construction, to form the passive voice, and to indicate the past
• Present participle—used to indicate an action that is occurring at that moment, or is progressive in nature
• Gerund—in this form the verb retains its identity as a verb while acting like a noun.