Forming Verbs

Choosing the Right Form

Instructions: Use the lesson on the left to choose the correct form of the verb in each sentence.

The Principal Parts of a Verb

      Each English verb undergoes certain changes in form in response to changes in the time the verb refers to and also certain other shades of meaning that verbs express. The root of the verb is uninflected (it has no endings and expresses no time; it is the form you look up in a dictionary). In addition, there are a past tense form and two participles, forms used with auxiliary verbs to form the other tenses.

    Root: sink, appear, go, bake, wiggle
    Past: sank, appeared, went, baked, wiggled
    Past Participle: sunk, appeared, gone, baked, wiggled
    Present Participle: sinking, appearing, going, baking, wiggling

These forms are called the principal parts of the verb, and each is used under different circumstances:

    Use the root after

      forms of "do" (as in "Did you go?"):


      modal verbs (as in "I must go"):


      auxiliaries using "to" (as in "I ought to go"):

        have/has to
        ought to
        used to
        am/is/are/was/were supposed to
        am to/is to/etc.
        am . . . going to

    Use the past alone, never with an auxiliary (as in "I went").

    Use the past participle after

      forms of "have" (as in "She has gone"):
      forms of "be" (as in "Elizabeth was obeyed"):

    Use the present participle after forms of "be" to express on-going or habitual action
          (as in "She is going to night school").

      As you will notice, regular verbs add "-d" or "-ed" to form both the past and the past participle, and all verbs add "-ing" to form the present participle. Irregular verbs, though, have a wide variety of forms for past tense and past participle. You will learn some of these in this lesson. To learn more, find a partner and click here.