Principal Parts of Verbs
Definition: In English there are four principal parts (also called forms) of a verb. These parts are used to form tenses, which tell us when an action occurred. In this lesson you’ll learn the fundamentals about the base verb form, the present and past tenses, and present and past participles. For more in depth information on how to use tenses, visit Lesson 8 and Lesson 10.
|Base/Present||Present Participle||Past||Past Participle|
Introduction to the Present and Past Tenses
The base is the most basic (or root) form of a verb, and it plays a very important role in forming the present and past tenses.
The base alone is used for most forms of the present tense, including the first person (I and we), second person (you), and third person plural (they). The only time the base changes is in the third person singular (he, she, it). To form the third person singular, just add the letter -s to the end of the base.
|Person and Number||Example|
Singular & Plural
(I and we)
|I practice piano once a week.|
We practice piano every day.
Singular & Plural
(You can refer to one person or a group of people.)
|You practice piano every other day.|
Do you girls practice piano every day?
|They practice piano on the weekends.|
(he, she, it)
|She/He practices piano for two hours each day.|
To form the past tense, take the base form and add -ed. If the base ends in a silent e, just add -d, not -ed. Unlike the present tense, the past tense always uses the same form regardless of person or number.
|walk||I/we/you/she/he/they walked 10 miles to the gas station yesterday.|
|I/we/you/he/she/they baked fifteen dozen cookies last holiday season.|
Introduction to Participles
When used as verbs, participles function as part of a verb phrase and must be accompanied by a helping verb. (There are some other ways to use participles, but you will learn about those in a different lesson.)
|Base||Present Participle||Past Participle|
To form a present participle, take the base form of the verb and add -ing. If the verb ends in a silent -e, drop the -e and add -ing. Present participles are used in the progressive tenses, which combine a form of to be (am, is, was, etc.) with a present participle.
My sister is walking to school today.
My brother was watching television when I came home.
Past participles are formed the same way as the past tense—by adding -ed to the base (or just -d if the base ends in a silent -e). Past participles are used in the perfect tenses, which combine a form of to have (have, has, had) with a past participle.
They have hiked this trail many times before.
Before leaving, we made sure we had walked the dog.