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Verbs and Tenses

While verbs are words used to represent an action or state of being, tenses are categories that represent references to time. 

TermDefinition
Action Verb

An action verb is a word that describes what action the subject of a sentence is doing. An action verb can convey a specific emotion or the purpose of the sentence subject.

Active Voice

A sentence in the active voice provides a clear picture of who did what to whom. In contrast, in a sentence written in the passive voice, the subject is usually displaced to the end of a sentence, giving the impression that a verb just performed itself. It is often said that scholarly writing should be in the active voice. However, this sometimes contradicts the other rule that scholarly writing is not supposed to be written from the first-person perspective.

Ambitransitive Verb

A good example of an ambitransitive verb is probably "to read". You can say both that "you read a book" and that "you read", with no further information. In the first case, the book would be the object of the verb; in the second case, the verb has no object. "To read" is thus an ambitransitive verb, since it can be used in both of these ways. There are other verbs that can only be used in one or the other of these two ways, and not both.  

Aspect

An aspect is a grammatical category or form that expresses the way in which time is denoted by the verb.

Auxiliary Verb

An auxiliary verb is a verb that adds functional or grammatical meaning to the clause in which it appears—for example, to express tense, aspect, modality, voice, emphasis, etc. Auxiliary verbs usually accompany a main verb.

Base Form

In English grammar, the base form of a verb is the simplest form of a verb, without a special ending (or suffix). It's the form that appears in dictionary entries. Also known as the plain form, simple form, or stem.

Causative Verb

A causative verb is a grammatical category or form that expresses the way in which time is denoted by the verb.

Continuous Verb

Causative verbs express an action which is caused to happen. In other words, when I have something done for me I cause it to happen. In other words, I do not actually do anything, but ask someone else to do it for me. This is the sense of causative verbs. Intermediate to advanced level English learners should study the causative verb as an alternative to the passive voice.

Copula

A copula connecting word, in particular a form of the verb be connecting a subject and complement. 

Declarative Mood

Declarative mood is an epistemic mood that signals that the proposition expressed by a speaker's utterance is offered as an unqualified statement of fact. Discussion. The term indicative is used in a narrow sense as a synonym of declarative.

Ditransitive Verb

In grammar, a ditransitive verb is a verb which takes a subject and two objects (both nouns) which refer to a theme and a recipient. According to certain linguistics considerations, these objects may be called direct and indirect, or primary and secondary.

Emphatic Form

The present emphatic tense is formed by adding the basic present form of the verb to the present tense of the verb to do (do or does). The past emphatic tense is formed by adding the basic present form of the verb to the past tense of the verb to do (did).

Finite Verb

A finite verb is a form of a verb that has a subject (expressed or implied) and can function as the root of an independent clause; an independent clause can, in turn, stand alone as a complete sentence. Read more about common clauses and how to use them.

Future Perfect

The future perfect is a verb form or construction used to describe an event that is expected or planned to happen before a time of reference in the future (future tense), such as will have finished in the English sentence "I will have finished by tomorrow."

Future Perfect Progressive

The future perfect progressive is a lot like the simple future perfect, except it talks about a continuous action (and not a simple action) that will have been done by some point in time. For example, the phrase "he will have slept" is simple future perfect; but the phrase "he will have been sleeping" is future perfect progressive. The future perfect progressive is almost always constructed by using the phrase "will have been", followed by the present participle ("-ing" form) of a verb. 

Future Progressive

The Future Progressive Tense indicates continuing action, something that will be happening, going on, at some point in the future. This tense is formed with the modal "will" plus "be," plus the present participle of the verb (with an -ing ending): "I will be running in next year's Boston Marathon.

Future Tense

Future tense is a tense expressing an action that has not yet happened or a state that does not yet exist. Other future tenses, like future perfect, focus more on specifics of upcoming events. The language is more literal and specific.

Helping Verb

Helping verbs are verbs that, as their name suggests, help the main verb in a sentence by extending the meaning of the verb. They add detail to how time is conveyed in a sentence. As a result, helping verbs are used to create the most complicated verb tenses in English: the progressive and the perfect aspects.

Historic Present

In linguistics and rhetoric, the historical present or historic present (also called dramatic present or narrative present) refers to the employment of the present tense when narrating past events.

Imperative

The imperative is a grammatical mood that forms commands or requests, including the giving of prohibition or permission, or any other kind of advice or exhortation. An example of a verb in the imperative mood is be in the English sentence "Please be quiet."

Inchoative Verb

An inchoative verb, sometimes called an "inceptive" verb, shows a process of beginning or becoming. Productive inchoative infixes exist in several languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek, and consequently some Romance languages.

Intransitive Verb

An intransitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity like arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, die, etc. Second, unlike a transitive verb, it will not have a direct object receiving the action.

Irregular Verb

Representing the most common form of a verb tense, an irregular verb follows a different pattern of conjugation than the normal paradigm for verbs within a given language. 

Linking Verb

A linking verb is a verb that connects the subject of a sentence to the complement. It is sometimes called a copula or a copular verb. An example is the word is in the sentence "The sky is blue".

Main Verb

In English grammar, a main verb is any verb in a sentence that is not an auxiliary verb. Also known as a principal verb. A main verb (also known as a lexical verb or full verb) carries the meaning in a verb phrase. A main verb is sometimes preceded by one or more auxiliary verbs (also known as helping verbs).

Middle Verb

In English grammar, a main verb is any verb in a sentence that is not an auxiliary verb. Also known as a principal verb. A main verb (also known as a lexical verb or full verb) carries the meaning in a verb phrase. A main verb is sometimes preceded by one or more auxiliary verbs (also known as helping verbs).

Participle

Participle is an adjective or complement to certain auxiliaries that is regularly derived from the verb in many languages and refers to participation in the action or state of the verb; a verbal form used as an adjective. It does not specify person or number in English, but may have a subjector object, show tense, etc., as burning, in a burning candle, or devoted in. 

Passive Voice

The passive voice is a grammatical construction (specifically, a "voice"). The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as Our troops defeated the enemy) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice.

Past Participle

Past Participle is the form of a verb, typically ending in -ed in English, that is used in forming perfect (such as the present perfect tense) and passive tenses and sometimes as an adjective, e.g., looked in have you looked? and lost in lost property.

Past Perfect

The past perfect refers to a time earlier than before now. It is used to make it clear that one event happened before another in the past. It does not matter which event is mentioned first - the tense makes it clear which one happened first.

Past Perfect Progressive

The Past Perfect Progressive Tense indicates a continuous action that was completed at some point in the past. This tense is formed with the modal "HAD" plus "BEEN," plus the present participle of the verb (with an -ing ending): "I had been working in the garden all morning.

Past Progressive

The Past Progressive Tense indicates continuing action, something that was happening, going on, at some point in the past. This tense is formed with the helping "to be" verb, in the past tense, plus the present participle of the verb (with an -ing ending).

Past Tense

The past tense is a grammatical tense whose principal function is to place an action or situation in past time. In languages which have a past tense, it thus provides a grammatical means of indicating that the event being referred to took place in the past.

Performative Verb

A performative verb is a verb that names an illocutionary force. It is used in a performative to perform an illocutionary act having that force.

Present Participle

Notice that each present participle ends in "ing." This is the case 100 percent of the time. On the other hand, past participles do not have a consistent ending. The past participles of all regular verbs end in ed; the past participles of irregular verbs, however, vary considerably.

Present Perfect

Because the present perfect is a compound tense, two verbs are required: the main verb and the auxiliary verb.

Present Perfect Progressive

The Present Perfect Progressive Tense indicates a continuous action that has been finished at some point in the past or that was initiated in the past and continues to happen. The action is usually of limited duration and has some current relevance: "She has been running and her heart is still beating fast." The term should not be confused with the present perfect tense, an entirely different verb tense.

Present Progressive

To form the present progressive in Spanish, combine a form of "estar" with the present participle. To form the present participle of regular -ar verbs, add -ando to the stem of the verb. To form the present participle of regular -er and -ir verbs, add -iendo to the stem of the verb. Learn more about participles in grammar.

Present Tense

A present tense is a tense expressing an action that is currently going on or habitually performed or a state that currently or generally exists. Present tense shouldn't be confused with the present perfect progressive or other progressive forms.

Progressive Aspect

The progressive aspect (or continuing aspect as it's sometimes called) is the aspect of a verb that expresses an on-going action. Progressive aspect is the collective term for verbs (past, present, or future) in a progressive tense. (This means the perfect progressive tenses too.) For example, past perfect progressive refers to something that started in the past but continues into the future.

Regular Verb

A regular verb is any verb whose conjugation follows the typical pattern, or one of the typical patterns, of the language to which it belongs. A verb whose conjugation follows a different pattern is called an irregular verb.

Stative Verb

In linguistics, a stative verb is one that describes a state of being, in contrast to a dynamic verb which describes an action. The difference can be categorized by saying that stative verbs are static or unchanging throughout their entire duration, whereas dynamic verbs describe a process that changes over time.

Subjunctive

The subjunctive is not a tense (e.g. present tense); rather, it is a mood. Tense refers to when an action takes place (past, present, future), while mood merely reflects how the speaker feels about the action. The subjunctive mood is rarely used in English, but it is widely used in Spanish.

Tense

In grammar, tense is a category that expresses time reference. Tenses are usually manifested by the use of specific forms of verbs, particularly in their conjugation patterns.

Transitive Verb

A transitive verb is an action verb that can effect a direct object. It is done directly to someone or something. Most verbs are transitive. A transitive verb contrasts with an intransitive verb.

Verb

A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen.

Verb Phrase

A verb phrase is the part of a sentence containing the verb and any direct or indirect object, but not the subject. Read more about verbs and tenses.

Voice

In general, the voice expresses the nature of the relationship between the verb and the subject. Within any sentence, there is a relationship between the object, subject and verb.

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