IELTS Basic Grammar - Verbs and Tenses (Part 1)
Most verbs describe actions, so they are called action verbs. Action verbs tell what people or things are doing. Here are some common action verbs.
» drink, look, jump, swim, fall etc.
Subject and Verb Agreement
When you use a verb, you have to say who or what is doing the action. This ‘who or what’ is the subject of the verb. The subject and the verb match each other. You say that the subject and the verb agree when they match each other.
Use a singular verb if the subject is a singular noun. For example, the subjects ‘my dad’ or ‘our school’, or any of the pronouns he, she or it, require a singular verb. Most singular verbs end in s. Look at the subjects and their verbs in these examples. The subjects are in bold and the verbs are in color.
" He always drinks milk when he’s hot."
" She eats bananas for breakfast."
" Mom walks to work every day."
" My sister dances like a professional dancer."
" The baby falls when she tries to walk."
" Our cat climbs the trees in our garden."
This form of the verb is called the third person singular. You use it when
the subject of the verb is not you or the person you are speaking to, but some
other person—a third person—or a thing.
Here are some more third person singular verbs that end in s.
» plays, sings, shines, rides, smiles, draws, paints, blows, thinks, stops etc.
The third person singular form of some verbs is made by adding es at the end. Some examples are verbs that end in sh, ch, ss, x, zz and o.
» brushes, watches, kisses, fixes, rushes, reaches, misses, mixes etc.
Here are some sentences with verbs in their third person singular form.
" She always brushes her teeth at bedtime."
" Dad polishes his shoes until they shine. "
Suppose the subject of a noun refers to a group of people. Depending on the meaning of the sentence, you may use either a singular or a plural verb.
" The audience was enjoying the play."
" The audience have all gone home."
" The class has thirty students."
" The class are handing in their papers. "
Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
Some verbs have an object. The object of a verb is the person or thing that is affected by the action of the verb.
"Alice eats a banana for breakfast. "
The subject of the verb is Alice. She is the person who does the action: she eats. The object of the verb is a banana. A banana is affected by the action of the verb. So in this sentence, the object of the verb ‘eat ’ is ‘a banana’. Verbs that have objects are called transitive verbs.
Some verbs don’t have an object. A verb that does not have an object is called an intransitive verb. Here are some sentences with intransitive verbs.
" In China, lots of people walk to work."
" The boys play in the yard after school. "
Some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive. Notice that the transitive meaning and the intransitive meaning are sometimes different.
The Simple Present Tense
Verbs have forms called tenses that tell you when the action happens. If the action happens regularly, sometimes or never, use the simple present tense.
" We always wash our hands before meals."
" Joe sometimes lends me his bike."
" Dad jogs in the park every day."
The simple present tense is also used to state facts.
" The sun rises every morning."
" Penguins live in the Antarctica. "
Use the simple present tense to tell the events of a story that is happening now.
" I arrive at school."
" I see another girl crying. "
Use the simple present tense to talk about things that will happen in the future.
" My little sister starts school tomorrow."
" The new supermarket opens this Friday."
" Next week I go on holiday to Japan. "
am, is and are
The words am, is and are are the simple present forms of the verb be.
• Use am with the pronoun I.
• Use is with singular nouns like ‘my dad’ and ‘the teacher’, and with the pronouns he, she and it.
• Use are with plural nouns like ‘my parents’ and ‘Jenny and Mary’, and with the pronouns we, you and they.
there is and there are
Use there with is and are to say what exists or what you can have. Use there is with singular nouns, and there are with plural nouns.
" There is a tree in our garden."
" There is a girl called Farah in my class."
" There is fish for dinner. "
The Present Progressive Tense
The present progressive tense is used to talk about things that are continuing to happen.
Make the present progressive tense by using am, is or are with a verb that ends in ing.
" I am learning how to swim. "
" My sister is listening to music."
" My brother and I are playing a computer game."
The present progressive tense is also used to talk about things that are planned for the future.
" I am going to the library tomorrow."
" My sister is giving me her bike when she gets her new one. "
The Simple Past Tense
Use the simple past tense to talk about things that happened in the past. The simple past tense is usually made by adding ed to the verb.
" I opened the door and looked inside."
" The plane landed ten minutes ago."
" My cousin visited us last summer. "
was and were
The words was and were are the simple past forms of the verb be.
• Was is the simple past form of am and is. Use was with singular nouns like ‘my dad’ and ‘the teacher’, and with the pronouns he, she and it.
• Were is the simple past form of are. Use were with plural nouns like ‘my parents’ and ‘Jenny and Mary’, and with the pronouns we, you and they.
" Ten years ago, I was only a baby."
" When I was younger, I played with teddy bears. "
" John and I were in the garden."
" You were nasty to me!"
" You and Sally were not at school yesterday."
Many common verbs have unusual present and past tense forms. These are called irregular verbs.
[ Remember that the simple past tense of most verbs is made by adding ed at the end: look becomes looked. Notice that the simple past tense of these common irregular verbs is quite different. ]
Example : break -- broke, keep -- kept, bring -- brought, kneel -- knelt etc.
• cost -- cost, cut -- cut, hit -- hit, hurt -- hurt etc.
The Past Progressive Tense
Use the past progressive tense to talk about things that were happening in
the past and had not stopped happening. They were continuing.
To make the past progressive tense, use was or were and a verb that ends in ing.
" I was watching television."
" Ben was finishing his homework."
You can also use the past progressive tense to say what was happening when something else happened.
" Sam was doing his math homework when the phone rang."
" Dad was cooking our dinner when I got home. "
have, has and had
The verb have is used to say what people own or possess.
•• Use have with the pronouns I, we, you and they, and with plural nouns such as ‘my parents’ and ‘Tom and Susan’.
•• Use has with the pronouns he, she and it, and with singular nouns such as ‘my dad’ and ‘the teacher’.
" I have two brothers and one sister."
" Monkeys have long tails."
" My sister and I have a swing in our garden."
" John has a big brother."
" Sally has a pretty face."
" An elephant has a long trunk. It also has big ears."
" His brother has dark hair."
" Our apartment has big windows."
Use have to talk about things that people do or get.
" I can’t play football because I have a broken leg."
" We have art lessons on Mondays."
" You have a stain on your shirt."
You also use have to talk about things that people eat.
" We usually have lunch at school."
" Mom and Dad sometimes have their breakfast in bed."
" Jenny often has sandwiches for lunch."
The simple past tense form of have and has is had.
" I had a big toy car when I was small."
" It was sunny so we had lunch in the garden."
" They had a wonderful holiday in Europe."
Use had when you're talking about wishes.
" I wish I had a new bike."
" Kathleen wishes she had a big sister."
" Dad wishes he had a bigger garage. "
You can make the negative with didn’t have.
" I wish I didn’t have so much homework."
" Jimmy wishes he didn’t have a broken leg."