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Verb phrases

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Verb phrases in English have the following forms:
A main verb:
We are here
I like her.
Everybody knows Peter.
She laughed.
A verb phrase with only a main verb is expressing the simple aspect.

An auxiliary verb

Be(auxiliary) and a main verb in –ing form:
Everybody is watching.
She was laughing.
A verb phrase with be and –ing expresses the continuous aspect.

Have(auxiliary) and the past participle:
They have enjoyed themselves.
Everybody has worked hard.
He had never been there before.
A verb phrase with have and the past participle expresses the perfect aspect. Have in the present with a past participle is the present perfect. Had with a past participle is the past perfect.

Have(auxiliary) and the past participle ‘been’ with the main verb in the –ing form:
We have all been working hard.
A verb phrase with have and the past participle ‘been’ with the main verb in the –ing form is the perfect continuous aspect.

A modal verb and a main verb:
(The modal verbs are – can, could, will, would, shall, should, may, might, must)
They will come.
He might come.
We can use modal verbs with auxiliaries:
They will be coming.
He might have come.
She might have been getting ready to come.

Lesson by Tristan, English teacher at EC Malta English school

Identify the verb phrases of the following:

  • 1. I haven’t seen her in ages.




  • 2. It's been raining all week.




  • 3. Sarah would have come to your party.




  • 4. I will never forget meeting you.




  • 5. We could meet tomorrow.




  • 6. They should have met us at the airport.




  • 7. I will have been working here for ten years by next month.




  • 8. We have been to Paris twice this year.