Verb forms

Compared with non-English languages, say for example French, where some verbs have up to 30 different forms, English is a relatively simple language.

The verb “to be” is the most complicated of all, with eight different forms (be, was, were, been, being, am, are, is). Other English main verbs only have between three and five different forms.

Important note: do not confuse “form” with “tense”. We use the word “form” to mean the shape or writing of the verb, and use the different verb forms to then make tenses and other verb structures.

Examples of verb forms

Take the verb “to cut”. It has only three forms: the base verb “cut”, the present participle “cutting” and the third person singular present simple “cuts”. With just the words cut, cutting and cuts, you can then make any tense or verb structures you like, for example I was cutting, she cuts, we will cut.

Now take the verb “to catch”. It has four forms: the base verb “catch”, the past simple “caught”, the present participle “catching” and the third person singular present simple “catches”.

Finally, take the verb “to sing”. It has five forms: the base verb “sing”, the past simple “sang”, the past participle “sung”, the present participle “singing” and the third person singular present simple “sings”.

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