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Home      English      Rules for Using the Principal Parts of the Verb
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Rules for Using the Principal Parts of the Verb

Part #1 - Base Form

The base form of the verb is the form you will find in the dictionary and it has no inflections (-s, -ed, -ing). The uses of this form include the infinitive (to + base form), the subjunctive (things that are required, suggested, recommended, etc.), and the formation of the simple present (activities which are habitual, generalizations, things that take place in the present, etc.). In the simple present, the spelling is the same in all cases except for third person singular (which adds -s or -es). The one exception to this rule is the verb 'to be' which is irregular in all its forms.


I work. We work.
You work. You work.
He, She works. They work.


I go. We go.
You go. You go.
He, She goes. They go.


I am. We are.
You are. You are.
He, She is. They are.


Part #2 - Simple Past


 The simple past is used for just that, activities which began and ended in the past. This form is frequently used in historical writing (e.g., history textbooks). For regular verbs, the simple past is formed by adding -ed to the base form. Irregular verbs are included on another list at this web site. 


I worked. We worked.
You worked. You worked.
He, She worked. They worked.


I went. We went.
You went. You went.
He, She went. They went.


I was. We were.
You were. You were.
He, She was. They were.


Part #3 - Past Participle

The past participle is used in the formation of the perfect tenses, past and present, and in combination with progressive verbs, to form the majority of verb 'tenses' in English. It is also used to form the passive form of all the verb 'tenses'. The past perfect is used for activities that began and ended in the past in combination with the simple past (She had been to Europe several times before she went to Italy.), as well as for past time hypothetical situations (If I had won the lottery, I would have moved to Jamaica.). The present perfect is used for present time references (I have finished my homework.), for activities which began in the past, but continue into the present (I have lived here for 6 years.), and for the recent past with an unspecified time reference (I have found a new apartment.).

The past perfect progressive is also used for activities in the past, frequently with the simple past (I had been planning to leave when the boss called.). The present perfect progressive is used for activities which began in the past, and continue into the present (I have been speaking French for 10 years.). 

The passive voice is used whenever the subject of the sentence is not actually performing the action of the verb. It can be used with inanimate objects (The car was started.) or it can be used to change the main focus of the sentence (The paper was written by Bob., rather than Bob wrote the paper.). There is a passive form of every verb 'tense' in English. For a complete list of all the verb 'tenses' in both active and passive, you can refer to that list at this web site. 

For more complete information on verbs and their usage in English, here are a few resources which would be helpful:

Azar, B. (1995). Fundamentals of English grammar: Chartbook. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Byrd, P. and Benson, B. (1989). Improving the grammar of written English: The handbook. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Celce-Murcia, M. and Larsen-Freeman, D. (1983). The grammar book: An ESL/EFL teacher's course. Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

Elbaum, S. (1986). Grammar in context: Book 2. Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

Greenbaum, S. and Quirk, R. (1990). A student's grammar of the English language. London: Longman Group

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