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Verbs with Helpers

Summary:

This handout explains and describes the sequence of verb tenses in English.

1. Recent Past (Present Perfect)

A conjugation of Have + [VERB+ed] describes an action that began in the past and continues into the present or that occurred in the recent past.

Examples:

  • The child has finished the candy.
  • I have gone to college for one year.
  • He has worked hard all day.

2. Distant Past (Past Perfect)

Had + [VERB+ed] describes actions that began and ended in the past.

Examples:

  • Mike had promised to repair Joe's bike.
  • I had eaten dinner before he came.

3. Present Continuous Action (Present Progressive)

Is + [VERB+ing] shows action that is in progress now or is going to happen in the future.

Examples:

  • I am taking Spanish this semester.
  • He is getting ready for the party this evening.
  • Next week they are going to Florida.

4. Past Continuous Action (Past Progressive)

Was + [VERB+ing] shows action that was in progress at a certain time in the past.

Examples:

  • Yesterday I was working in the garden.
  • He was smoking a pack a day before he quit.
  • The dogs were barking all night.

5. Other helping verbs (Modals)

[HELPER] + [VERB], such as CAN, WILL, SHALL, MAY, COULD, WOULD, SHOULD, MIGHT, MUST keep the same form. They do not change to agree with the subject.

Examples:

I |

you |

he | can do that assignment easily.

we |

There are also modal phrases (some of which don't change form), such as:

  • COULD HAVE + Verb
  • WOULD HAVE + Verb
  • MUST HAVE + Verb

(Not could "of" or would "of")

Examples:

  • I could have won the prize if I had entered the contest.
  • He must have bought the ticket already.

OR

  • USED TO + Verb
  • HAVE TO + Verb
  • HAVE GOT TO + Verb
  • BE ABLE TO + Verb
  • OUGHT TO + Verb
  • BE SUPPOSED TO + Verb

Examples:

  • I used to think that all dogs have fleas.
  • I am supposed to come back next week.
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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.