Correct Use of the Verb

Correct Use of the Verb

Learning English is always a confusing thing with so many rules written here and their. So we have gathered all the rules along with examples to make the concepts clearer an to make the session interactive. In this post, we will discuss correct use of the verb it’s usage in a sentence and all the rules that are used while using tenses.

Structure of the Verb Phrase

A verb Indicates the action done by the subject or the state of being of the subject.


1 He has completed the work (action).

2 Radha is an intelligent student (state).

In every sentence you find out verb phrase.

A verb phrase may have a single word or more words.


1 The sun rises in the East.

2 He has ordered tea for us.

3 She has been teaching English since 1965.

4 She will have been typing when I met her at 10:00 a.m. 

Verbs are of two types main verb and auxiliary verb

Main verb basic form

Single present tense sing

Simple past tense sang

Present participate singing

Past participle sung

Auxiliary verbs and their forms

Primary Auxiliaries

be, is, are, am, was, were, being, been, have, had, has, having, do, does, did, doing, done

Modal Auxiliaries

can, might, may, must, will, needn’t, shall, daren’t, should, ought, would, used to, could

Note: the Verb phrase in any sentences constituted by using only the main verb form on one of the basic forms of the main verb and the primary auxiliaries or modal auxiliaries or both the primary auxiliaries and the modal auxiliaries.


  1. I teach (Main Verb) English
  2. I am(Primary Auxiliary) teaching(Main Verb) English now.
  3. I will have been(P.A.) teaching(Main Verb) English.

Special Note: Every verb phrase has a particular structure acceptable according to standard written English.

The verb phrases in the following sentences are wrong.

  1. I will the work
  2. I will did the work
  3. I going there.
  4. I can done the work

Verbs- Transitive and Intransitive 

The verbs which do not require or do not have objects in the sentence in which they are used are called intransitive verbs.(i.v.)

In the following sentences complements are used, not objects.


  1. This book costs(i.v) 10 rupees(Comp).
  2. The play lasted(i.v) an hour(comp).
  3. The birds fly(i.v) in the sky(comp).

The verbs which require or have objects are called transitive verbs.


The professor gave(v) them some assignments(object)

Note: There are a number of verbs which can be used with or without object that is ‘transitively’ or ‘intransitively’.

Here are some examples verbs used both intransitively and transitively.

Intransitive use

  1. My father is reading
  2. The play ended at 5:00.

Transitive use

  1. He is reading the newspaper
  2. Rain ended the play

correct use of the verb

Verb voice

There are two voices

1 Active voice

2 Passive voice

Notice the change in the following sentences

  1. She has done the work (active voice).
  2. The work has been done by her.(passive voice)
  3. These engineers can draw good designs.(active voice)
  4. Good designs can be drawn by these engineers.(passive voice)
  5. The principal read the report.(active voice)
  6. The report was read by the principal.(passive voice)


(i) Depending on the emphasis we want to lay, we use a particular voice in a particular context.


Some people dug are well to provide water to the village.(active voice)

A well was a dug to provide water to the village.(passive voice)

Here we would prefer to use the second rather than the first sentence, because we want to refer is not the action of the panchayat but the result of the action, namely, a well,  being provided in order to supply water to the village. Who dug the well is not the main idea in our minds.

(ii) Intransitive verbs do not have passive voice i.e we cannot transform a sentence from active to passive if the verb is intransitive.

For example the sentence birds fly in the sky cannot be transformed into passive voice.

Verb form and use of the tenses

There are 12 tenses structures in English


Simple present: I teach English

Present continuous: I am teaching English

Present perfect: I have taught English

Present perfect continuous: I have been teaching English


Simple past: I taught English

Past continuous: I was teaching English

Past perfect: I had taught English

Past perfect continuous: I had been teaching English


Simple future: I will teach English

Future continuous: I will be teaching English

Future perfect: I will have taught English

Future perfect continuous: I will have been teaching English

Uses of tenses some important rules

Simple present tense is used to express habitual actions, permanent or verifiable truth or facts (scientific or universal)

  1. He goes to church every Sunday.
  2. Water boils at hundred degree Celsius.
  3. Calcutta stands on the banks of the Hooghly.
  4. The sun rises in the East

The simple present tense is used to express a planned future action, or a series of such planned actions.

(a) We leave Hyderabad at 8:30 p.m. next Tuesday and arrive in New Delhi at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

The present continuous tense is used to describe an action that is in progress at the time of speaking.

Example:  The children are playing in the garden now

The present continuous tense is also used to describe an action that is in progress and will be continued, but not necessarily going on at the moment of speaking.

(a)The college authorities are building a new hostel

The present continuous tense can also express and action that has been arranged to take place in the near future and one’s immediate plans.

  1. I am meeting the CM tomorrow morning
  2. We are going to a movie this evening

There are a number of verbs which are not normally used in the present continuous tense.

These are

(A) verbs of perception: see, hear, smell, notice

(B) verbs used to express feelings or states of mind: want, desire, wish, refuse, forgive, care, hate, like, admire, love.

(C) verbs involving the process of thinking: feel, know, mean, remember, forget, recall etc

(D) verbs denoting possession: have, own, belong, possess.

(E) words such as contain, consist, keep, seem, cost.

When some of the verbs listed above are used in the present continuous tense, their meanings change.

1 I see several mistakes in this book.

I am seeing(will be meeting) the principal at 3:00 p.m.

2 We hear several rumours about the minister.

The judge is hearing(conducting the trial) the case tomorrow

3 I have a house at Mohali

I am having(act of eating) my breakfast.

The following sentences are wrong

  1. I am loving that girl. (Love)
  2. They are understanding the lesson(understand)
  3. I Am slowly understanding you (wrong). I have begun to understand you (right)
  4. I am having a telephone at my residence.(have)

Present perfect tense definition + examples

The present perfect tense is used to indicate an action that has just completed.


I have finished my work (just now)

The present perfect tense is also used to represent a past action continuing to the present.


We have lived in Hyderabad for 10 years.(i.e we are still living in Hyderabad)

Do not use present perfect tense (has or have) when time is specified (example last year, 1994 etc) in the sentence.


I have seen this film last year (incorrect)

I saw this film last year (correct)

Also note that for and since are commonly used with the present perfect tense. ‘For’ shows length of time and ‘since’ shows some point of time in the past as being the starting point of the action or event.


1 My friend has lived in Hyderabad for 20 years(he still lives here)

2 These monuments have been here since 1658 (still they are here)

The following are some time expressions which go with the simple past and some that go with the present perfect.

Simple past tense

  • Yesterday
  • A week ago
  • Recently

Present perfect tense

  • So far
  • Since
  • Lately

Note the difference in meaning between the following two sentences:

  • Dr Mohan lived in Delhi for 15 years (in the past).
  • Dr Mohan has lived in Delhi for 15 years (still doctor Mohan lives in Delhi).

Simple past tense indicates an action completed some time in the past.


I lived in Hyderabad for 10 years (in the past).

Past progressive tense

1. The past progressive (continuous) tense expresses and action that was in progress at a time in the past, having begun before that point and probably continuing after it.


A. I was reading the newspaper at 10:00 a.m. this morning.

B. I was having my breakfast at 9 a.m.

2. The past progressive tense expresses an action continuing over a period of time in the past.


The students in the hospital was listening to the cricket commentary the whole of yesterday.

3. The past continuous tense describes two or more actions going on at the same time, often the conjunction ‘while’ is used to connect the clauses.


While some boys were reading in the library the others were playing.

Past perfect tense

This tense is used when we wish to emphasize the sequence of the two actions in the past, and when the early action has some relation to the later action or situation.


  1. On reaching the school I found that I had forgotten to bring my English textbook.
  2. When we reached the theater the play had begun already.
  3. I borrowed some money from a friend of mine since, I had lost my purse.

The future tense

There are several ways of expressing future time in English

One of the most common ways to express this is to use shall or will with the bear forms of verb: shall come, will go, etc. But there are other ways of expressing the future.


Our cricket team leaves for Bombay this evening. They play 2 matches in Bombay. They play one at Pune. They return next morning

In the above sentences the present simple tense is used to express a series of intended for planned actions in future.

  1. The PM is visiting the city tomorrow.
  2. The college team is playing a match with the city team next Sunday

The present continuous tense is used in the sentences to express the future event. Usually the time is mentioned (tomorrow, next Sunday etc) and it is in the near future. Note that the verbs go and come are not usually used with going to. We don’t say, for instance, He is going to go to Bombay tomorrow; we say. He is going to Bombay tomorrow.

Special expressions to indicate future

  1. The train is about to leave.
  2. The president is about to speak.

The construction be about to + verb expresses events which are likely to happen in a very short while.

  1. I am to be at a meeting at 5 o’clock
  2. There is to be an enquiry into the railway accident.

In these sentences the form to be + to + the base form of the verb is used to express our duty or necessity or plant course of action, in the future.

Rules regarding the use of verbs

(Subject and verb Concord Agreement)

General rule for correct use of the verb:The verb must agree with its subject in number and person. In other words, verb must be of the same number and person as a subject.

Note: In the correction of sentences section of many competitive examinations the subject and verb Concord is usually tested

Rule 1 

When two subjects are joined by ‘and’, the verb is plural.

My friend and his father are in India

Rule 2

When two singular nouns joined by and and refer to the same person or thing, the verb is singular.

  1. The secretary and treasurer has been arrested.
  2. The district magistrate and collector is on leave today


(i) Article ‘Th’e is used only once when the two nouns refer to the same person or thing.

(ii) If the two nouns refer to different persons or things, article ‘The’ is used before each noun. In such cases, the verb will be in the plural form.


The secretary and the president have been given warm welcome.

Rule 3

If two different singular nouns expresses one Idea, the verb should be in the singular form.

  1. Bread and milk is good for breakfast.
  2. Rice and curry is my favorite dish.
  3. This is the long and the short of the matter

Rule 4 for correct use of the verb

When two singular subjects are practically  synonyms the verb should be in the singular form.

  1. The law and order situation in the state is under control.
  2. His power and influence is on the decline.
  3. Power and position has no charm for my friend.
  4. Peace and prosperity is the need of the day.

Rule 5 for correct use of the verb

If two singular subject (combined by and) are preceded by each or every, the verb should be in the singular.

  1. Every boy and girl was present in the class yesterday.
  2. Every man and every woman has the right to express his or her view.

Rule 6

When the subjects joined by ‘either-or’, ‘neither-nor’ are of different persons, the verb will agree in person and number with the noun nearest to it. Also the plural subject must be placed nearest to the verb (This is very important)

  1. Either Radha or Rajni has done this mischief . Neither Mohini nor Ragini is beautiful.
  2. Either the chief minister or the cabinet ministers are responsible for this problem. Neither you nor he is to take up this task.
  3. Either you or I am responsible for this mistake.

Rule 7

If connectives like with together with, as well as, accompanied by etc are used to combine two subjects the verb agrees with the subject mentioned first.

  1. The President of India together with his personal secretary is invited to this function.
  2. The actress, along with her manager and some friends, is attending the function.
  3. Mr Michael, accompanied by his wife and children is arriving tonight by train.

Note: If the conjunction and is used instead, the verb would then be plural.

Compare (i) Sarita and Rajitha are our professor’s daughters.

Rule 8

When ‘not only….. but also’ is used to combine two subjects, the verb agrees with the subject close to it.

Not only Harish, but also his brothers were arrested.

Rule 9


None can take either a singular or plural verb and depending on the noun which follows it;

Structure: none + of the + non-count noun + singular verb

  • None of the counterfeit money has been found

Structure: None + of the + plural count noun + plural verb

  • None of the students have finished the exam yet.

No can take either singular or plural verb depending on the noun which follows it.

Structure: No + singular noun + singular verb non-count noun

  • No example is relevant to this case

Structure: No + plural noun + plural verb

  • No examples are relevant to this case

Rule 10

Many words indicating a number of people or animals are singular. The following noun are usually singular. In some cases there plural if the sentence indicates that the individual members are acting separately.

  • Congress
  • committee
  • team
  • crowd
  • minority
  • family
  • class
  • army
  • government
  • public
  • group or organisation
  • club
  • Jury

Examples of collective nouns

  1. The committee has met, and it has a accepted the proposal.
  2. The family was happy at the news.
  3. The crowd was wild with excitement.
  4. The Congress has initiated a new plan to combat inflation.
  5. Our team is certain to win the match.

Some collective nouns are used in plural:


  1. The committee has arrived by different trains.
  2. The family war fighting over inheritance.

Rule 11

Majority can be singular or plural. If it is a loan it is usually singular, if it is followed by a plural noun, it is usually plural.

  1. The majority believes(Verb) that the country can progress.
  2. Majority of the lecturers believe(Verb) that the student has not copied in the examination.

Rule 12

A Number of/ the number or

Observe the two structures:

(i) A number of + plural noun + plural verb

(ii) the number of + plural noun + singular verb


  1. A number of students are going to the class picnic.
  2. The number of days in a week is 7.
  3. The number of residents who have been living in this colony is quite small.
  4. Number of the applicants have already been interviewed.

Rule 13

Collective nouns indicating time, money and measurements used as a whole or singular and take a singular verb.

  • 25 rupees is not such a big amount for him.
  • 2 miles is too much for this man to run.

Rule 14

When a lot of, a great deal of, plenty of, most of ,and some of, refer to number, a plural verb is used.


  • A lot of people were present in the gallery.
  • Some of the students were absent

Note: If these expressions refer to an amount, the verb is in the singular number


  • A lot of work has to be completed before we go.
  • A great deal of work has been finished

Rule 15

When the percentage of a part of something is mentioned with plural meaning is the plural verb is used.


  • 30% of Indian women are literate.
  • Three quarters of the food has been eaten (here the references to the food as a whole)

Rule 16

‘Barracks’, ‘headquarters’, ‘whereabouts’ take a singular verb as well as a plural verb

  • The headquarters of the UN is/are New York

Rule 17

In sports, while referring to the players, the name of the country is followed by plural verb.

  • England(Verb) have won the World Cup.

Rule 18

When the word ‘enemy’ is used in the sense “armed forces” of a nation with which one’s country is at war, we have to use a plural verb:

  • The enemy was forced to retreat

Correct the mistakes relating to correct use of the verb in the sentences given below

  1. Measles have broken out in the town.
  2. The Arabian nights are an interesting book.
  3. Five miles are not a long distance for me to walk.
  4. the cost of all essential commodities have gone up.
  5. The construction of these buildings have taken 4 years.


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