Understanding Verb Inflection

Did you know that like nouns, verbs can be modified through inflection? Knowing how verbs change is super important. This blog will help you understand these changes with easy examples.

Verbs can change their form to show tense, person, number, and mood. We also use verb-phrases to help express voice, which further distinguishes them.

Tense

Tense expresses time and tells us when something happens. Verbs change their tense to show whether an action is happening in the present, past, or future. Each tense has different forms.

Present Tense

A verb in the present tense refers to the present time, in other words something happening now.

Simple Present: She walks to school.
Present Continuous: She is walking to school.
Present Perfect: She has walked to school.
Present Perfect Continuous: She has been walking to school.

Past Tense

A verb in the present tense refers to something that happened before now, in other words a past time.

Simple Past: He walked to the store.
Past Continuous: He was walking to the store.
Past Perfect: He had walked to the store.
Past Perfect Continuous: He had been walking to the store.

Future Tense

A verb in the present tense refers to something that will happen. In a future time.

Simple Future: They will walk home tomorrow.
Future Continuous: They will be walking home tomorrow.
Future Perfect: They will have walked home by tomorrow.
Future Perfect Continuous: They will have been walking home for an hour by tomorrow.

Person and Number

Person and number refer to who and how many. Verbs change to match the subject’s person (first, second, or third) and number (singular or plural).

Person

First Person: Talking about yourself.

♦ Singular (I am)
♦ Plural (We are)

Second Person: Talking to someone else.

♦ Singular and Plural (You are)

Third Person: Talking about someone or something else.

♦ Singular (He/She/It is)
♦ Plural (They are)

Number

Singular refers to a single person or thing, whereas plural indicates multiple persons or things.

First person: I walk vs. We walk.
Second person: You walk.
Third person: She walks vs. They walk.

Making sure the verb matches the subject keeps our sentences clear.

Mood

Mood shows the speaker’s feelings about the action of the verb. There are different moods in English:

Indicative Mood

Indicative mood states facts or beliefs. Example:

♦ She writes every day.
♦ They are running.

Imperative Mood

Imperative mood gives commands or requests. Example:

♦ Write your name.
♦ Run faster!

Subjunctive Mood

Subjunctive Mood shows wishes or things that aren’t real.

♦ If I were you, I would write more.
♦ I suggest that he run every day.

Conditional Mood

Conditional Mood shows actions that depend on something else.

♦ She would write if she had time.
♦ They would run if it weren’t raining.

Choosing the right mood can change the meaning of your sentences.

Voice

We use verb phrases to express voice, further distinguishing them. Grammar distinguishes between active voice, where the subject performs the action, and passive voice, where the subject receives the action.

Active Voice

For example, in the active voice sentence The cat chased the mouse, the subject (the cat) is performing the action of chasing. In contrast, the passive voice version of this sentence is The mouse was chased by the cat, where the subject (the mouse) is receiving the action.

Passive Voice

Verb phrases like was chased help show the passive voice. Similarly, in The book was written by the author, was written shows that someone else did the action of writing, making the sentence passive.

Using verb phrases to express voice allows us to highlight different parts of the sentence and provide more detail about who is doing what.

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Exercises for Verb Inflection

Take a moment to rewrite the sentences with the proper tense, number, person, mood, and voice.

  1. She write a letter every day.
  2. They was going to the store.
  3. He have finished his homework already.
  4. I were happy to see her.
  5. The dog chases the cat last night.
  6. We eats breakfast together on Sundays.
  7. You was very tired after the trip.
  8. I hopes that you will come to the party.
  9. They has been working on the project for weeks.
  10. The book were read by the students.
  11. If I was you, I would study harder.
  12. She has spoke to him about the issue.
  13. They walks to school every morning.
  14. He has been played soccer since he was a child.
  15. I suggests that she takes a break.
  16. The cake is baking by the chef.
  17. He don’t like to read books.
  18. You is always helpful to others.
  19. We was planning a surprise for her birthday.
  20. The movie were watched by the entire class.
Click on the + button for the answers

1. She write a letter every day.
Correct: She writes a letter every day.
2. They was going to the store.
Correct: They were going to the store.
3. He have finished his homework already.
Correct: He has finished his homework already.
4. I were happy to see her.
Correct: I was happy to see her.
5. The dog chases the cat last night.
Correct: The dog chased the cat last night.
6. We eats breakfast together on Sundays.
Correct: We eat breakfast together on Sundays.
7. You was very tired after the trip.
Correct: You were very tired after the trip.
8. I hopes that you will come to the party.
Correct: I hope that you will come to the party.
9. They has been working on the project for weeks.
Correct: They have been working on the project for weeks.
10. The book were read by the students.
Correct: The book was read by the students.
11. If I was you, I would study harder.
Correct: If I were you, I would study harder.
12. She has spoke to him about the issue.
Correct: She has spoken to him about the issue.
13. They walks to school every morning.
Correct: They walk to school every morning.
14. He has been played soccer since he was a child.
Correct: He has been playing soccer since he was a child.
15. I suggests that she takes a break.
Correct: I suggest that she take a break.
16. The cake is baking by the chef.
Correct: The cake is being baked by the chef.
17. He don’t like to read books.
Correct: He doesn’t like to read books.
18. You is always helpful to others.
Correct: You are always helpful to others.
19. We was planning a surprise for her birthday.
Correct: We were planning a surprise for her birthday.
20. The movie were watched by the entire class.
Correct: The movie was watched by the entire class.

Ten Tips for Verb Inflection

1. Maintain Consistent Tense: Ensure that your verbs remain in the same tense throughout a paragraph or narrative to avoid confusing your readers.
2. Match Subject and Verb Number: Make sure your verb agrees with the subject in number.
3. Correct Person Agreement: Align the verb with the subject’s person (first, second, or third).
4. Use Appropriate Tense for Actions: Use past tense for actions that have already happened, present tense for current actions, and future tense for actions that will happen.
5. Understand Regular and Irregular Verbs: Regular verbs form their past tense by adding ed, while irregular verbs have unique past tense forms, like go to went.
6. Avoid Tense Shifts: Don’t switch tenses unnecessarily within a sentence or paragraph, as this can confuse readers.

7. Use Active Voice for Clarity: Active voice makes sentences clearer and more direct.
8. Employ Passive Voice Purposefully: Use passive voice when the action’s recipient is more important than the doer.
9. Watch for Helping Verbs: Helping verbs (like is, are, was, were, has, have) can change the tense and mood of the main verb.
10. Combine Tenses in Complex Sentences: Use different tenses in different clauses of a sentence to show the timing relationship between actions.

Last Words on Verb Inflection

Understanding and using verb inflections—tense, person, number, and mood—makes your writing clearer and more precise. Keep practicing these rules, use the examples to guide you, and look for more resources if you need help. Happy writing!

Happy writing!

Linda

 

Feature Image by u_1r3iga0g0h from Pixabay.

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