Main verbs have three basic forms: the base form, the past form and the -ed form (sometimes called the ‘-ed participle’):
base form: used as the infinitive form, with to or without to (Do you wantto comewith us? I can’tleavenow.) and for the present simple (I alwaysreadbefore Igoto sleep every night.) except third person singular, which uses the -s form (Sheworksat the university.)
past form: used for the past simple (Heopenedthe door andwentout.)
-edform: used after auxiliary have and be (I’vealwayswanteda piano and Iwasgivenone last week.).
How dictionaries show the forms
The base form is normally the form used as a heading in a dictionary. Here is a typical dictionary entry for a verb. The base form is sing, the past form is sang and the -ed form is sung:
verb (sang, sung) MAKE MUSIC 1. [I or T] to make musical sounds with the voice, usually a tune with words:
The children sang two songs by Schubert at the school concert.
[source: Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary]
Examples of the three basic forms
When you look up a verb in the dictionary, you will often find the three forms listed together, especially for irregular verbs. Here are some examples (regular verbs are printed in blue; irregular verbs are printed in black).
Pronunciation and meaning
Some verbs have a similar pronunciation but a different meaning:
We love to just lie on the beach.
Not: We love to just lay on the beach.
Lie/lay/lain is used without an object. Lay/laid/laid must have an object: e.g. I’lllay the tablethen we can eat.
Other verbs like this are: affect/effect, bare/bear, fine/find, note/notice, raise/rise.
Sometimes a verb is confused with another word which sounds similar but is from a different word class:
I don’t want to lose contact with my school friends.
Not: I don’t want to loose contact with my school friends.
(Lose is a verb. Loose is an adjective, e.g. These shoes are tooloose; I need a smaller size.)
Other pairs like this are: advise (verb)/advice (noun), practise (verb)/practice (noun).
Most verbs in English are regular. Regular verbs add -ing to the base form to make the -ing form, and -ed to the base form to make the past simple and the -ed form.
Base forms which end in -e
If the base form already ends in -e (e.g. move, face, like), then -d is added to make the past form and the -ed form. The final -e is not used in the -ing form.
Base forms which end in a consonant plus -y
If the base form ends in a consonant plus -y (e.g. carry, hurry, study, try, worry), then -y changes to -ied to make the past form and the -ed form. The -y ending does not change in the -ing form.
Base forms which end in vowel + single consonant
If the base form ends in a vowel followed by a single consonant and if the last syllable is stressed (e.g. begin, drop, occur, refer, run, shop, stop, transfer), then the consonant is doubled. If the last syllable is not stressed (e.g. benefit, happen, open, order, profit), then the consonant is not doubled. (Stressed syllables are underlined in the table.)
Vowel + l
The consonant is doubled if the base form ends in a vowel + l, whether the last syllable is stressed or not.
Regular verbs all use the same endings to indicate person (first, second or third), number (singular or plural) and tense (present simple or past simple).
Person relates to the type of subject. I and we indicate the first person, you (singular and plural) indicates the second person and he, she, it, they and noun subjects indicate the third person. Regular verbs have the same form for all persons, but third person singular present simple ends in -s:
I love Japanese food.
My sister lives with two other students.
They worked for a French company based in London.
She arrived at the office around nine o’clock most days.
Number indicates whether the subject is singular or plural. Regular verbs have the same form for singular and plural, but third person singular present simple ends in -s:
We love historical dramas on TV.
They lived in a huge house in the country somewhere.
He works terribly hard.
He always arrived late.
Tense indicates whether the verb is present or past. The past simple of regular verbs ends in -ed for all persons and numbers:
They loved everything about Australia.
She lived in Spain for a couple of years.
I worked on Saturday so I stayed at home on Monday.
The police arrived within minutes.
We always need an e in the -ed form (past simple and -ed form) of regular verbs:
I don’t know what happened at the last meeting.
Not: I don’t know what happend at the last meeting.
Other verbs which are often misspelt in this way are: bother, complain, consider, join, recover, remain.
The -es ending
If the verb ends in -ch, -s, -ss, -sh, -x or -z, then -es is added to make the third person singular present simple.
She watches the news every night at ten o’clock.
Luckily, the bus passes by my house.
She wishes that she had gone to university.
My friend, who’s a mechanic, fixes our car for us.