Verb phrase in English grammar? Verb phrase examples

Learners, this post will help you master verb phrases in English, and it will also make you familiar with different structures verb phrases come in. What is a verb phrase in English? What are the different types of a verb phrase in English? How to form it? We will get the answers to all these questions and even more.

I find verb phrases one of the easiest phrases in English, if not the easiest, and I am sure by the end of the post, you will have the same feelings too. So let’s get into it.

What is a verb phrase?

How difficult could it be to guess the meaning of a verb phrase? Well, everything is on the plate. By the name, it looks like a phrase that works as a verb in a sentence. That’s exactly what a verb phrase is.

A verb phrase is a combination of an auxiliary verb, also known as a helping verb, and a main verb. And what is the difference between a verb and a verb phrase? A verb is just a word, and a verb phrase is a group of words: more than one.

Verb phrase examples-

  • I have written this post for you.
  • My mom is cooking my favorite dish while I am writing this post.
  • Everyone should meditate daily for a peaceful mind.
  • He has broken up with Nikky.
  • She might love me again.
  • I have been waiting for a long time.
  • We could have won the match.
  • I have been teaching English for 5 years.
  • We might have been doing it wrong.
  • She would have been waiting for me.
  • I could have been working on this project.

The parts colored red are verb phrases.

Want to know how difficult this extremely easy topic can look? check out the definition of a verb phrase per Wikipedia. 😉

What is a verb phrase in English
Verb phrases examples

Verb phrase structure

Verb phrases in English can be formed using different combinations of one or more auxiliary verbs and an action verb.

1. A helping verb (TO BE) and an action verb (V1+ing)

Structure: To be verb (IS/AM/ARE/WAS/WERE) + action verb (PROGRESSIVE)

  • We are learning verb phrases.
  • Everyone is complaining about something.
  • They were beating the helpless dog last night.
  • I am sleeping.
  • Jon was taking drugs last month.

In this structure, verb phrases that use is, am, and are show that the action is happening in the present, and the verb phrases that use WAS and WERE that the action was happening at some point in time in the past. So, this structure is used in the Present Continuous tense and the Past Continuous tense.

2. A helping verb (TO BE) and an action verb (past participle, passive voice)

Structure: To be verb (IS/AM/ARE/WAS/WERE) + action verb (PAST PARTICIPLE)

  • We are taught verb phrases.
  • Everyone is told to be at their home.
  • They were beaten for no reason.
  • I am forced to quit the job.
  • Jon was made the senior manager last year.

This structure is used in the Present Indefinite tense and the Past Indefinite tense in the passive voice. Verbs IS, AM, and ARE show the present time. And the verbs WAS and WERE show the past time.

  • Someone teaches us verb phrases. (Present Indefinite tense, active voice)
  • We are taught verb phrases. (Present Indefinite tense, passive voice)
  • The police beat them for no reason. (Past Indefinite tense, active voice)
  • They were beaten for no reason. (Past Indefinite tense, passive voice)

3. Two helping verbs in passive voice (TO BE + BEING) and an action verb (V1+ing)

Structure: To be verb (IS/AM/ARE/WAS/WERE) + BEING + an action verb (PROGRESSIVE)

  • We are being taught verb phrases in this class.
  • Everyone is being told to leave the office.
  • They were being beaten for no reason.
  • I am being forced to quit the job.
  • Jon was being lectured.

This structure is used to form sentences in the PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE and the PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE in the passive voice.

  • Ashish is teaching us verb phrases in this class.
    (Present continuous tense, active voice)
  • We are being taught verb phrases in this class (by Ashish).
    (This sentence is in Present continuous tense, passive voice. The importance is not given to who is performing the action of TEACHING, the object who is receiving the action, WE, is what the importance is given to. That’s what we use passive voice for.)

4. A helping verb (TO HAVE) and an action verb (past participle)

Structure: To have (HAS/HAVE/HAD) + an action verb (PAST PARTICIPLE)

  • I have taught verb phrases recently.
  • Everyone has asked me to leave the office.
  • She has hated me for no reason.
  • Some people have donated their entire fortune to the poor.
  • Jon had left the office when I reached there to pick him up.
  • I had finished dinner when they joined me.

We use this structure to form sentences in the PRESENT PERFECT TENSE and the PAST PERFECT TENSES. Has/have is used to show the present tense and had is to show the past tense.

5. Two helping verbs (TO HAVE + BEEN) and an action verb (Past participle)

Structure: To have (HAS/HAVE/HAD) + BEEN + an action verb (PROGRESSIVE)

  • We have been living in India since 1996.
  • He has been teaching English for 5 years.
  • They have been supporting us for years.
  • I had been doubting myself until I read that book.
  • Jon had been begging on roads until 2018.

We use this structure to form sentences in PRESENT and PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSES.

6. A modal auxiliary verb and an action verb (V1)

Structure: a modal auxiliary verb (can, could, may, might, shall, should, will and would) + an action verb (PAST PARTICIPLE)

  • We should meditate for a peaceful mind.
  • He must learn from his mistakes.
  • They can kill us.
  • I may quit all social media platforms.
  • Jon could become the next prime minister of India.

7. An auxiliary verb (modal auxiliary + HAVE) and an action verb (past participle):

Structure: Modal auxiliary verb + HAVE + Past participle (V3)

  • We should have paid more attention to the class.
  • He must have studied at a good college.
  • They could have helped us, but they didn’t.
  • I may have hurt some people’s feelings in the past.
  • Jon could have become my best friend.

8. Two auxiliary verbs (modal auxiliary + BE) and an action verb (progressive):

Structure: Modal auxiliary verb + BE + Present participle (V+ing)

  • We should be spending more time with us.
  • He must be crying in his room right now.
  • They would be making a movie based on my life.
  • I might be coming to your place tomorrow.
  • Jon could be hiding the papers.

9. Three auxiliary verbs (modal auxiliary + HAVE + BEEN) + an action verb (progressive):

Structure: Modal auxiliary verb + HAVE + BEEN + Past participle (V+ing)

  • They must have been working on this project for 10 years.
  • She might have been waiting for the last 2 hours.
  • Kids would have been playing outside had the rain not come.

    Note: a verb phrase gets interrupted in negative and interrogative sentences.
  • I am not eating anything right now.
    Verb phrase: am eating
    Interrupter: not
  • Has she cooked my favorite dish?
    Verb phrase: has cooked
    Interrupter: she
  • How long has Ashish been teaching English?
    Verb phrase: has been teaching
    Interrupter: Ashish
  • Jacob has not been listening to his parents lately.
    Verb phrase: has been listening
    Interrupter: not

To put emphasis on the action, we use the auxiliaries DO, DOES, and DID.

  • She smokes.
  • She does smoke. (To emphasize the fact she smokes when nobody believes she does)
  • I keep a gun for my safety.
  • I do keep a gun for my safety. (To put more stress on the fact that I keep a gun)
  • Your girlfriend called me last night.
  • She did call me last night. (To put more stress on the event and make people believe it)

Check Yourdictionary and Britishcouncil for more examples, if you feel.

So, we have seen different examples of verb phrases in English in this post. Was it difficult to understand what a verb phrase is? No, right? That’ s what I told you at the beginning of the post: it’s not difficult at all. So, if someone asks you, “What is a verb phrase in English?” Now you know what a verb phrase is in English, learners. Alright, I will see you in the next post, pals. Hope you enjoyed this one!

Watch this video on verb phrases!

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