English grammar

Module 3, Verbs: Types, Tenses, and Moods, Lesson 5:

Principal Parts of Verbs

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English grammar

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.

Principal Parts
Base/Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
walk walking walked walked
dance dancing danced danced
play playing played played

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.

Present Tense

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.

Present Tense
Person and Number Example
First Person
Singular & Plural
(I and we)
I practice piano once a week.
We practice piano every day.
Second Person
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?
Third Person
Plural
(they)
They practice piano on the weekends.
Third Person
Singular
(he, she, it)
She/He practices piano for two hours each day.
Past Tense

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.

Past Tense
Base Example
walk I/we/you/she/he/they walked 10 miles to the gas station yesterday.
bake
(silent -e)
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.)

Participles
Base Present Participle Past Participle
walk walking walked
bake
(silent -e)
baking baked
Present Participles

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

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.

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar
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Directions:
Identify the principal part of the bold-faced verb.
1.
Those mountains have been standing for millions of years.
present / present participle / past / past participle
2.
Samantha likes reading books.
present / present participle / past / past participle
3.
This unknown number has called my phone every day for the past week.
present / present participle / past / past participle
4.
My grandparents have lived in the same house for the past fifty years.
present / present participle / past / past participle
5.
Pax walked to his girlfriend's house five miles away.
present / present participle / past / past participle
6.
I hope the otters are not sleeping when we visit the zoo this time.
present / present participle / past / past participle
7.
My father has followed college basketball since he was ten years old.
present / present participle / past / past participle
8.
Is that your cell phone ringing?
present / present participle / past / past participle
9.
Cody came home and slumped on the sofa, too tired to do his homework.
present / present participle / past / past participle
10.
My best friend has always wanted to swim with dolphins.
present / present participle / past / past participle
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