by Lisa Geren, Writing Center tutor

Verbs are a class of words used to show the performance of an action (do, throw, run), existence (be), possession (have), or state (know, love) of a subject. To put it simply a verb shows what something or someone does.
Most statements in speech and writing have a main verb. These verbs are expressed in tenses which place everything in a point in time.

English also uses several forms of verbs to help the main verb, sometimes called helping verbs or auxiliary verbs. Words like should, could, will and must are called modals. Sentences using these helping verbs appear in a particular order (syntax) in the sentence;


Auxiliary Verbs Forms

Modal Auxiliary                   Have                                  Be                             Do





































English Verb Forms

Present tense

Activity that happens now.

I walk my dogs today.

Past tense

Finished past actions, definite past

I walked my dogs yesterday.

(present + MODAL)

Activity that will happen in the future.

I will walk my dogs tomorrow.

Present progressive

Activity that is happening right now and will continue.

I am walking my dogs now.

Past progressive

1) The past continuous is used to express something that is happening at a precise moment in the past.
2) The past continuous is most often used to express an interrupted action expressed using the past simple.

I was walking my dog yesterday.


I was walking my dogs when it started to rain.

Future Progressive

Things that are happening now, at the moment.

I will be walking my dogs all week.

Present Perfect

Past actions with results in the present.

So far, I have walked my dogs everyday for 3 months.

Past Perfect

The past perfect is used to talk about an action that is finished before another action in the past.

I had walked my dogs everyday for 3 months until I got sick.

Future Perfect

The future perfect is used to talk about what will have been done up to a specific point in the future.

I will have walked my dogs for everyday 3 months by tomorrow.

Present Perfect Progressive

The present prefect progressive is used to talk about an activity that is currently in progress but has no specific end.

I have been walking my dogs everyday for hours.

Past Perfect Progressive

The past perfect is used to talk about an action that was ongoing that was finished before another action in the past.

I had been walking my dogs until my neighbor’s dog attacked one of my dogs.


Future Perfect Progressive
(present+MODAL+HAVE+{en} +BE+{ing}

The future continuous is used to talk about an activity that will be in progress at a specific point in time in the future.

I will have been walking my dog everyday for 6 months by the end of the year. / Do / Be





As an auxiliary, have always occurs before the past participle {-en} for of another verb to express the perfect (completed) aspect of the verb.
When have is in the present tense, it creates the present-perfect form of the verb.
When in the past tense, the auxiliary have creates the past-perfect form.

Have also functions as a true verb, having many different meanings.

To posses
To be characterized
To be ill with
To eat
To give birth to
To display a quality or trait.



My dog has slept in the cat bed all day.
My dog had slept there before.



I have a lot of books.
I have blue eyes and brown hair.
I have had a cold.
I had dinner really late.
I had my babies when I was really young.
I had the courage to go back to school.


As an auxiliary, be has two main functions.
Express the progressive (ongoing) aspect of the verb. It occurs before the present participle {ing} form of the main verb to create either the present-progressive form when be is in the present time.
Precede the past participle of another verb to create the passive form.
Be as a True verb
Be links its subject to a phrase in the predicate that describes identifies the subject.

My dog is sleeping on my lap.


My dog was sleeping on my lap.

My dogs are Chihuahuas.
They are very playful.








As an auxiliary verb, we employ do in a number of grammatical processes:
We use do when we create certain kinds of questions.
Do is also used to form negatives.
Emphatic statements
Do as a Pro-Verb

The relation of do to verbs is similar to that of pronouns to nouns.
Do as a True Verb
Do has a variety of meanings:
To perform
To cause
To work at



Does the dog need to go out?
I don’t feel like going for a walk.
The dogs do need to go out.
You want to go for a walk more than I do.



I will do all of my reading tomorrow.
Getting the sleep I needed did me a lot of good.
What did you do last night after the party?