Verbs and Tenses: An Introduction

In the next few weeks, we will be looking at tenses. When we talk about the tenses, we cannot look at them in isolation. We are actually looking at verbs.

In this post we will review the basics of verbs. It is through them that we will tell the tense in which a sentence is.

What are verbs?

Verbs are actions in sentences.  A verb denotes the action or state of being of the subject in a sentence. The actions can be physical or mental.

Examples

She went to the party.
Anna considers the job easy.   

In the sentences above, went and considers are the verbs of the subjects she and Anna respectively. The verb went refers to physical action, while the verb considers refers to mental action.

There is also a group of verbs that you often use but probably don’t know that they are verbs. They denote state of being. The base of these verbs is to be. They are the following: am, is, are, was, were, and will be.

When we talk about verbs, we also want to indicate the time they happened. Is it the past, present, or future? This is called tense of the verbs. Even if you are not a native English speaker, you would now that you should use was when the event has already happened, use is if it is happening, and use will be if the event is going to happen in the future.

Examples

Carrie was with Emmy yesterday.
I am tired.
My son will be here tomorrow.

As you already know, verbs are also affected by the subject. Singular subjects take singular verbs, while plural subject take plural verbs. For example, in the first sentence above, if Carrie has another companion, say, Abby, then was will become were. That is,

Carrie and Abby were with Emmy yesterday.

This is called the subject-verb agreement. This is also an important concept which we will discuss in the next post because we start with simple tenses.

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